Retro Film Review: Jumpin' at the Boneyard (1991)

in #filmlast month


People go to cinemas in order to get entertained and, at least temporarily, escape from real life. It isn't surprising that films that try to deal with real life, especially its nastier side, tend to be forgotten, ignored or obscure. Sometimes this happens even with films which are supposed to get much bigger attention. Jumpin' at the Boneyard, 1991 drama directed by Jeffrey Stanzler, failed to arouse much interest and is today mostly ignored despite featuring two actors who would later become very prominent.

The film's protagonist is Manny (played by Tim Roth), Bronx resident who can't deal very well with loneliness following divorce. So, when one morning his younger brother Dan (played by Alexis Arquette) suddenly appears after years of absence, it looks like a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, real motive for Dan's visit isn't family reunion. Dan and his girlfriend Jeanette (played by Danitra Vance) are drug addicts and they actually came to rob Manny's apartment and thus obtain money for drugs. Manny is savvy enough to see what Dan's state and his true intention are, so he literally kidnaps his brother in the last-ditch effort to put him back on the right track. He forces Dan to visit their father's grave and their old mother. During two-day voyage through Bronx, two brothers remember their childhood, experience all kinds of adventure and in the end accidental encounter with Mr. Simpson (played by Samuel L. Jackson), youth centre official, gives Manny idea how to get Dan off the drugs.

Jumpin' at the Boneyard is realistic, dark and uncompromisingly gritty portrayal of drug addiction, its effects on family relationship and the way how dysfunctional past begets even more dysfunctional present. This bleakness, which is underlined with ending usually not seen in modern Hollywood movies, is aided by authentic Bronx locations and couple of former drug addicts playing characters very much like themselves. All that, together with always dependable Samuel L. Jackson in one of his earlier and less known roles, could have resulted with very powerful drama. However, Tim Roth, in one of his early American roles, briefly before Reservoir Dogs made him into household name, disappoints by occasionally sinking into overacting. Jumpin' at the Boneyard is nevertheless good film that won't disappoint those few viewers who accidentally stumble onto it.

RATING: 6/10 (++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on March 11th 2004)

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