The leader of a small group of teenage petty thieves (Sexton) longs to leave his hometown of New York City for Mexico with his girlfriend (Vega). But his edgy friend has other, grander ideas for the group, which involve bigger scores and a weapon. Tragedy is never far away.
The director of this indie drama, which proved to be the darling of the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, is not the ubiquitous star of similar name but a new boy who has previously only dabbled in shorts. His sensitive and perceptive feature boasts tight direction and excellent cinematography and suffers only from a narrative that relies a little too much on coincidence.
Marcus (Sexton) is the natural leader of a group of small-time thieves who peddle CDs and designer trainers to the local school. The teenagers hang out in a secret den and plan their next money-making schemes. These childish robberies are mainly to keep the gang from being bored and Marcus is only using crime as a means to an end but troublemaker Chip (David Roland Frank) dreams of bigger things.
Marcus lives with his hip grandma Lucy (Cohen) but wants to leave the city for the freedom of Mexico and is getting cosy with Melena (Vega) who is trying to escape from her overbearing Latin father (Shawn Elliot). Needless to say, the extraneous elements of trigger-happy Chip, Marcus' naive notions of loyalty, and his love for a caged bird conspire to shatter his dreams.
The cast are mainly fresh first-timers who at times exude amateurism but this raw, untapped talent ultimately adds to the film's appeal as a subtle slice of life. Sexton's urban cowboy character is by far the meatiest role and he copes admirably - bringing to it just the right amount of angst and apathy. Freeman, who also wrote and co-produced the movie, is obviously very confident behind the camera and doesn't resort to filling the screen with shocking images to compensate for the lack of a big budget. On the contrary, he goes for cool characters, well-realised relationships and a refreshing depiction of their lives.
On a lean running time, first time feature director Freeman has done an admirable job in making the potentially hackneyed story fresh, for which credit must also go to the performers and cinematographer.