So much of what gives New York City its undeniable flavor and character is its buildings, those great, towering structures that have existed for decades, weathering the good, bad and ugly about life in the Big Apple. While a romantic notion, the cold reality of living in a building in "the old neighborhood" is that it's definitely not "the old neighborhood" — which can mean junkies, corpses and other shocking twists that most apartment dwellers would just as soon not deal with.
Kill The Poor is no exception: adapted from Joel Rose's novel, director Alan Taylor herds a terrific cast through this tale of gentrification, its effect on people as well as the city's peculiar, distinctive soul. Taylor, who cut his directorial teeth on a number of HBO series, works from a screenplay by Lemony Snicket himself, Daniel Handler, who fractures the narrative, hopping back and forth through time to jittery effect. In 1982, Manhattan's Lower East Side is crawling with junkies, thieves and various other unsavory types. Despite his Uncle Yakov's protestations, Joe and Annabelle (an excellent David Krumholtz and Clara Bellar) decide to purchase an apartment in an area rich with meaning for Joe. The other tenants band together, even electing Joe president of the co-op, to defend against the mean streets, even Carlos (Paul Calderon), a long-time squatter who refuses to give in and begin paying rent.
As the film progresses, it functions as a low-rent valentine to the idea of owning your own space, a piece of the American dream. Gently comedic and too diffident to be truly dramatic, the game cast is more or less stranded between these two poles — comedy and drama — and as such, doesn't register as strongly as you would like. Kill The Poor certainly isn't sentimental about the way New York City used to be, but in its own way, does seem to celebrate a time and place that have long since been scrubbed away.
Kill The Poor was filmed on digital video, so the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, while clear, is still littered with motion artifacts, pixilation and occasional smearing that greatly detracts from the filmmakers' intent, which, I believe, is to present a grimy, edgy New York City. It's both a hindrance and a help to Alan Taylor's film.
The Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack isn't flashy, but gets the job done, rendering all the dialogue cleanly and clearly, with no distortion, drop-out or other aural defects. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also on board.
There is no bonus material.
Kill The Poor certainly isn't sentimental about the way New York City used to be, but in its own way, does seem to celebrate a time and place that have long since been scrubbed away. Rent it.