Every generation need its tale to be told. Once in a while, that gritty saga is told from the frontlines, relegated by the ones who live it. Over the years, films like Easy Rider, Do the Right Thing, Menace to Society and Kids have sparked the flame of youth culture and captured the renegade spirit of their times. Threat is that film for the new millennium, an unapologetically brutal and surprisingly intelligent look at the violent existence of urban culture. But unlike Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s wasteland of mindless wannabe miscreants, the inhabitants of Threat are sharp witted and strong willed individuals struggling with their own place in a world that offers little or no opportunity. Sure there is nihilism to spare and the ending has a bit to much cinematic vibe going for it but the catalyst behind the films resonance is its honest depiction of the characters and their psuedo-lives.
Threat is ostensibly the tale of 2 very different protagonists who have developed a mutual respect and friendship through their workplace interactions. Jim (Carlos Puga) is a homeless straightedge punk whose caustic worldview defines the very quintessence of the disaffected. In stark contrast to Jim is Fred (Keith Middleton) an intellectually turned on artist who sees society’s ills and strives to affect what changes he can. Over the course of one fateful night this unlikely duo will find out that the myths are true, the stakes are high, and the end is unavoidable.
This film works on every conceivable level; it holds court not only as a historical document of time and place, but also as a window into the soul of American adolescence. The message in the film is clear and the final frames echo with a kind of haunting immediacy that forces the audience to reevaluate the last 20 minutes of film, if not the last 20 years of their lives. The same kind of tragic supposition that makes Threat so important is evident every night of the week, at 6 and 11.
The crew behind Threat is as bright and urgent as the film they made. Threat was a labor of love for a cast and crew of over 200, lead by Writer/Director Matt Pizzolo and Writer/Producer Katie Nisa. Three years in the making, shot on the fly for no money, on borrowed equipment, and stolen streetscapes. The film is a revelation partly because of the subject manner, partly because of the DiY ethic but most importantly because the performances ring so true. The cast of mostly non-professional actors extract remarkable performances that frighten and stir the audience throughout this epic battle of cinematic creativity.
To really define the significance of Threat, one must recognize and accept that filmmaking is an art form and that art, like life must reflect civilization. If that civilization is trapped in a philosophy of internal strife, art, music, film and literature should reflect that dissension. Great Art should ask the truly difficult questions and not provide stock answers. Great art should assail the status quo, and that is what Pizzolo and Nisa’s film has skillfully accomplished. It refuses to provide answers, if dares to avoid the blame game. The residents of this film are besieged by their own lives, the have to eat, work, sleep and s**t so they don’t have the time to dissect the reasons they exist. In the final act, a simple argument of mistaken issue forces the narrative into a bloodbath of felled futures. This catastrophic dénouement is as inevitable as Greek tragedy. In effect the characters never had a chance. The world sent them out to do battle and the world bled with them.