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PUNKS (R)
Urbanworld Films
Official Site
Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
Producer: Patrik-Ian Polk
Written by: Patrik-Ian Polk
Cast: Seth Gilliam, Rockmond Dunbar, Dwight Ewell, Jazzmun, Renoly Santiago, Vanessa Williams, Loretta Devine

Rating: out of 5


Warning: Punks does not mean what you think means. It is NOT a film about white British kids with purple mohawks hanging outside the pub. “Punk” is actually a slang term for homosexual, a word William Burroughs is often credited with introducing to mainstream culture, from his beat novel Junkie.

Director Patrik-Ian Polk has reclaimed the word “punk” in his first film, a story about four black gay men in West Hollywood. I’ll just tell you up front, I’m a white girl. I’m not gay, and I’m not black so I had a little trouble relating to this film. At first I felt bad about that, and after musing over how on earth I could review this film objectively without seeming politically incorrect or prejudiced, it dawned on me if this film was halfway entertaining, I wouldn’t be in such a quandary.

The main punks in the film are Marcus (Gilliam), a gay photographer, and his three friends. Chris (Jazzmun) is a drag queen who as usual does a better job at being a woman than most of us women. Dante is a Latino rich kid (Santiago) and Hill (Dwight Ewell) is an HIV-positive fitness club employee.

Out of the four, Marcus is the most troubled. He wants romance and a meaningful relationship, but he’s luckless. He and his buddies joke around and kid one another with openly gay affectations as they struggle to find love in the vacuous landscape of HIV Hollywood. This simply means they pepper their speech with words like “bitch,” “ho’,” and “punk.” When perfectly buff Darby (Dunbar) moves in next door, Marcus falls in love… but Darby is straight. Don’t worry, with a character named Darby, coupled with a really thin plot, you just know Darby will come around sooner or later. That’s all there is to PUNKS, love lost, love found and love in between, with a driving disco beat in the backdrop.

To its credit, PUNKS is beautifully shot. Like looking at a five-tier wedding cake in the bakery shop window, it’s intricately decorated, but you know it’s fake because it’s been in that same window for over six months. PUNKS is the same way. All the characters look like they’ve been living in a gym for the past year, and the décor is that perfect blend of Pier One Imports and Urban Outfitters. Marcus and his friends are too perfect, their dialogue is too hip, and the explored themes of love and romance have been told more effectively a thousand times before, somewhere else. Polk can change the gender and sexuality of his characters, but it makes no difference. PUNKS is just a dressed-up exterior with no real bite underneath.

—Nancy Semin

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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