by Bob Freville
Inspired by John’s Colter’s Run, Attack in LA (formerly Parasites) is a harsh take on class war, culture shock, homelessness and blind hatred. Written and directed by our friend Chad Ferrin (the filmmaker behind Breaking Glass Pictures’ legendary cult horror epic Someone’s Knocking at the Door and the man at the helm of the forthcoming splatter comedy Exorcism at 60,000 Feet), ‘AiLA’ tells the story of three privileged friends who find themselves stranded on Skid Row after their luxury car gets a flat tire.
Of course, the plot is far more complex than all that; once you get past the amateurish and inaccurate cover art that suggests a triumphant uprising of the proletariat via assault rifles, you find yourself in an immersive picture where you are running right alongside the film’s terrified protagonist.
To say that Attack in LA is gritty would not be a fair description since critics hurl that word around so much that it’s lost all meaning. A better summation would be to say that Attack in LA looks and feels like a swim through a kiddie pool full of someone else’s sick…and that kiddie pool is brimming with syringes, spiked boards and piss.
The story follows Marshal Colter (newcomer Sean Samuels) as he and his pals are subject to a forcible search and seizure by a cadre of cruddy street people who live in the tunnels of Downtown Los Angeles.
Although it’s unlikely, we get the impression early on that Marshal and his friends might get off with little more than a protracted scare from these hobos and some soiled pairs of undies…if they could just keep their elitist opinions to themselves. Naturally, that’s not what happens.
I won’t spoil the details, but suffice it to say that things go sideways fast after their corpulent Frat boy friend Scottie (Sebastian Fernandez) runs off at the mouth and gets that mouth filled with more than he could have anticipated.
I’ve long loved flicks that explore the crazy shit that can happen when the average worker drones are asleep. Whether we’re talkin’ about Scorsese’s sublime and surreal After Hours, Joe Carnahan’s retro throwback Stretch or the 1993 urban crime thriller Judgment Night, the most exciting stories almost always occur after the sun goes into hiding.
Such is the case with Attack in LA, a sort of Judgment Night reboot that’s a more overt meditation on the caste system and racial politics. This might be Ferrin’s most fully realized picture and, certainly, his only film with a clear message—Be careful holding yourself in higher regards than others because you might end up in their position.
On a fundamental level, this movie is a classic story of a war waged between Good and Evil, except in this case “good” is an entitled, well-educated young black man and “evil” is an addle-brained old war veteran ironically named Wilco. The curmudgeonly vagrant is played with grimy vigor by the chameleon-like character actor Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
This pic is as ugly and nihilistic as most of its director’s canon, but it may also be his most beautifully shot and well-executed. That it was relegated to Amazon Prime without any proper fanfare is a crime worse than anything committed in its brief running time.
What we see as the film progresses is the sheer prevalence of abuse that people in the so-called underclass take and the “lows” that the privileged are willing to stoop to when they are put under pressure for the first time.
Ferrin’s choice to feature extensive full frontal male nudity was something I would have automatically applauded as someone who recognizes that the film industry has been both exploitative and hypocritical when it comes to gratuitous female nudity for far too long, but I applaud it here because I think he had a deeper reason for doing so.
So far as I can tell, Ferrin is saying that it doesn’t matter if you have a big, swinging dick…even if you’re packing a fucking war club between your legs there will always be someone out there ready to cut you down to size.
From a purely narrative standpoint, the filmmakers definitely owe a debt to John Carpenter’s cult actioner Assault on Precinct 13, but the gravity with which each kill is depicted owes more to Jean-François Richet’s 2005 remake of the same.
None of this is to say that Attack in LA is unoriginal; the picture’s unflinching treatment of the subject matter is something that is rarely seen in film today and in Ferrin’s hands it is presented with stark clarity. While the cinematography can be as dizzying as running for your life the picture is as sobering as brass knuckles to a drunken head.
The soundtrack is fire from the synth score to the incredibly subtle but totally on the nose cover songs (“House of the Rising Sun,” et al.) all the way down to the third act’s haunting originals.
What ‘Attack’ shows us more than anything is the importance of acceptance. Were it not for one unnecessary and badly timed comment the three boys central to the film’s first act would likely be okay. Nothing inflames more than ignorance. The sequence in which our protagonist is mistaken for a homeless person and is subject to a paint balling attack by millennial vloggers is painfully reminiscent of the Bum Wars craze.
The racism of Attack is nothing new, of course, but it seems particularly striking in 2019. Without getting at all political on the subject, I can say with some semblance of authority that the reason behind that racism is clear—the self-appointed messiah of these mole people is a man who was all too happy to be lord and personal savior to his fellow hobos. Once they questioned his instincts they became what they always really were in his eyes—“bitches,” “cunts,” “gooks,” “Taco eaters,” etc.
‘Attack’ has the ending that Get Out should have had, the kind of ending that doesn’t satisfy but pisses people off. And that’s saying something in an age where everyone plays it safe.