Review: Uneventuful 'Gully' a disastrous and confusing drama
Courtesy of Vertical/Paramount
Within the opening frame of “Gully,” which is billed as being set in a dystopian Los Angeles, it’s clear that music video director Nabil Elderkin is trying to manifest his “Clockwork Orange” complete with a gang of miscreants wreaking havoc in their community, but this vastly empty and hollow drama doesn’t have the clout or social commentary to register beyond parody. It’s an uneventful and disastrous attempt at trying to start conversations around child abuse, police brutaility, and crime-ridddled neighborhoods Fox News loves to talk about. An exceptional quartet of actors: ranging from Kelvin Harrison Jr. to Charlie Plummer to Jonathan Majors are lost and confused in this discombobulated tale that quite literally goes nowhere.
At just under 80-minutes, “Gully” will give audiences a bad case of whiplash trying to coordinate several plotlines and characters who may or may not add substance. The core narrative follows pals Calvin (Jacob Lattimore), Jesse (Harrison Jr.) and Nicky (Plummer) as they roam the streets of LA with the sounds of L.A.P.D helicopters overhead while causing all types of trouble. Clearly playing too much “Grand Theft Auto” (Elderkin throws in several oddball video game sequences), the group steals cars, randomly starts fights, and breaks into people's homes without much consequence. Again, this is supposed to be a “dystopian” society, but the only dystopian reading “Gully” registers is banal nonsense.
Elsewhere in this sprawling LA neighborhood (deep breath) Greg (Majors) has just gotten out of prison, and is trying to get clean making an honest living; Terrence Howard (seriously, I can’t believe this cast) shows up playing a homeless guy named, of all things, Mr. Christmas who offers poetic advice/narration on what’s happening in the community. Meanwhile, Jesse’s adoptive stepfather (played by John Corbett) has a deep and dark secret that comes so far out of left field, I had to pause the film in order to process what the hell was happening. I didn’t even mention Amber Heard‘s wild turn as a drug addicted mother with approximately five minutes of screen-time.
Having worked with Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Travis Scott and Vince Staples (the latter two have cameos), in the music video world Elderkin doesn't slouch on the visual aesthetics, but “Gully” has all the remnants of a feature debut stuck in limbo. Originally screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, “Gully” ironically has the benefit of robust star power thanks to most of the performers landing major projects in the years since. Granted, they’d probably like to forget being involved in this stylized and perplexed odyssey which will have audiences rejoicing once the credits roll.
GULLY opens in Select Theaters June 4th and debuts on Digital June 8th