As far as ultra-micro-budget films go, you can do a lot worse than P.J. Bracco’s 1998 wise guy drama The Court. An oddity that’s somehow resurfaced 22 years later, it sort of functions as both a throwback to the cheapo exploitation films of the 1970s and an ode to the filmmakers that so clearly influenced Bracco. If you can stomach the blatant sexism and jarringly poor visuals, there’s some fun to be had here.
After what is possibly the most poorly-designed credit sequence I have ever seen (seriously, a bunch of paper cut-outs of the filmmakers’ names would have looked better than the mishmash of eye-gouging visuals we’re treated to at the start), we’re introduced to Joey (Fred Berman), a slacker who lives with his recently-widowed mother. Despite her warnings, Joey bonds with his cousin Paulie (Bracco), a coke-addicted wise guy from NYC’s gritty streets.
“…Joey bonds with his cousin Paulie, a coke-addicted wise guy from NYC’s gritty streets.”
“I’m a real piece of sh*t, Joey,” Paulie says. From the get-go, Paulie is portrayed as a cocaine-snorting, misogynistic as**ole, kicking some naked broad out of his apartment. He takes Joey out to strip clubs with his entourage; they pop Joey’s proverbial cherry. When Paulie goes overboard during a job, accidentally killing a man, Joey finds himself roped into his cousin’s big-league snafu. Things only get worse when Angie (Alicia Wells), Paulie’s so-called girlfriend (or, according to him, his bitch) bails on him with the money. Oh, and Paulie’s mother is gravely ill, just to raise the stakes a little more.
The Court meanders, but nevertheless builds a semblance of momentum, only to end so abruptly, it is as if Bracco didn’t quite know how to do justice to the characters and story he’s concocted. That finale, along with the film’s guitar-licks-led score, poorly-lit and shot visuals and rough (and I mean rough) editing, all somehow add to the overall rugged charm of The Court. Bracco clearly knows that world – either directly or, more likely, by studying De Palma, Tarantino, and Scorsese films (Goodfellas is shamelessly and repeatedly referenced) – so some of the banter from the game cast surprisingly rings true (“Don’t you know nothing about nutrition, Paulie?”).
"…perhaps it's best watched in small doses, while inebriated..."