If it’s true that filmmakers often make films based on what they know, then let’s hope that director James Bolton never buys another can of spray paint from a hardware store again. That’s because “The Graffiti Artist,” his loving (autobiographical?) ode to urban vandalism trussed up as an “art form,” is the biggest waste of time since I tried to paint with water colors in the shower.
Nick, AKA “Rupture” (Ruben Bansie-Snellman) cruises the streets of Portland on his skateboard, stopping only to “tag” his name over some previously unsullied swath of industrial landscape, shoplift some fruits and veggies from unsuspecting street vendors, or curl up on a sidewalk, his head propped on his backpack, for what must surely be a restful night’s sleep.
When Nick meets up with Jesse, AKA “Flip” (Pepper Fajans), a similarly maladjusted young truant, the two join forces to spread their gaudy form of urban blight throughout as much of Portland and Seattle as possible. Along the way, their stunted relationship evolves from a tentative friendship into a shallow homosexual fling, before it falls apart again with all the emotional depth of a sheet of paper. When the most dramatic moment of a film comes when the lead character changes his name from “Rupture” to “Elusive,” you know you’re watching a film with some character evolution issues.
Instead of character growth and a strong narrative, however, Bolton gives us 78 minutes worth of fawning montages devoted to the demanding discipline of graffiti artistry. Lord, these two punks spray paint buildings the same way dogs pee on fire hydrants, and they’re about as endearing and charismatic as feral mutts, too. In fact, “Rupture” doesn’t even say a single word for the film’s first 23 minutes, for crying out loud, thus proving that “acting with one’s eyes” is pretty easy when the only _expression one must convey is disaffected ennui.
“The Graffiti Artist” is as dull, meandering and pointless as its slacker protagonists’ existence. Hell, hand me a can of spray paint, and I’d gladly “tag” the negative myself.