Legendary film critic Roger Ebert once said, “no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad”. I would add four-time Academy Award-nominee Ethan Hawke to this rule – while he has certainly starred in some absolute stinkers, his presence has at least made them watchable. Cut Throat City, directed by rapper RZA, pushes this theory to its absolute limit.
This meandering crime thriller boasts an all-star cast including Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard and Hawke alongside Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse) and rap star T.I., but fails to do anything particularly interesting with its talented performers. A poor script from Paul Cuschieri and amateurish direction from RZA result in a hopeless and cliché-ridden criminal saga that does absolutely nothing new with the crowded genre, while thinly written characters and predictable twists mean the audience have nothing to connect with. It is, at times, rather frustratingly underwhelming – wooden performances from some of the supporting cast and sloppy editing make the film feel cheap, while a misguided attempt at a unique final act twist is so poorly executed that the film ends on the biggest of many painful misfires.
It is a shame, because the film opens strongly – using haunting archival footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (the plot’s catalyst) giving the first act a substantial emotional wallop. But what follows quickly descends into tedious, repetitive and at times incoherent narrative beats that derail any chance the film had of being one of quality.
The only saving grace is, as suggested in the introduction, the performance of Ethan Hawke. The acclaimed actor is inexplicably good here, showing his passion and professionalism while other big names in the film totally phone in their performances. Despite an all-too-brief supporting role, Hawke is terrific and earns Cut Throat City the minimal stars I have awarded it; without him, I’d be suggesting you avoid this film like the plague.
Cut Throat City is a tedious slog packed with thinly written characters, predictable twists and a dull, meandering narrative. Recommended only for diehard Ethan Hawke fans.