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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | May 15, 2006

Okay, I get it. So if “City of God” is supposed to be the zeitgeist for future teenage wasteland drug cartel films of this nature, then fine. That’s not to devalue “Stryker” in any sense, because in its own merit, “Stryker” is original. Beginning with an opening sequence exploring the plight of the Native Americans throughout the years, it enters in to a similar wasteland where Gonick essentially makes the statement that a Native American ghetto when correlated with an African American ghetto really makes no difference. Both are the oppressed people, and both really have to work hard to pave a future, which would account for the heavy hip hop score.

In the center of this entire film, though, where many gangs struggle for domination of the drug and prostitution scene is this Stryker (slang for “prospective gang member”). Who is this Stryker? Gonick’s film takes a front and center look at the lifeless soulless existence of prostitutes, gang members, and drug-dealers fighting for control, while the film occasionally drifts to Stryker, the allegorical moral presence who looms in every single situation with a cold glare. Stryker is less a character and more a reminder of the soulless future of the Native American—which could account for the characters being drawn to him without ever realizing. He’s young, empathic, and barely mutters a sentence of dialogue.

Is he an angel observing a race at its lowest, a sentient being taking amusement at humanity, the spirit of an ancient rebel watching his crusade come to this, or just a spirit forced to watch the deterioration of his people? Much of that is left to debate because while “Stryker” focuses completely on the gang war, Kyle Henry’s quiet but morbid performance as the watcher with a penchant for arson in the self-destruction of these people steals the show. “Stryker” is much too bogged down by over-the-top performances, and lack of tension, but Gonick manages to side-step that fact well with a very engrossing story based around this large drug war, and this entity watching it all and letting it play out as it should.

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