Trailer for Straight Outta Tompkins (Video via Vimeo)
Their is no shortage of television series and feature films that take place in NYC. Our fair metropolis this year alone has been the setting for Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2; Fox’s Batman prequel Gotham; and Cinemax’s The Knick. While NYC is often a setting for crime dramas, we are noticing something strange about the current depictions of it on screen: it’s a little too polished.
The NYC we remember seeing is the NYC of Scorsese and Spike Lee. Yes, those days are behind us, however even with NYC crime rates reaching record lows, crime does still exist in NYC. It is something we live with and what has inspired some of our most creative and passionate film directors. NYC is not just what is shown on Broad City and 2 Broke Girls. But has NYC has lost its cinematic edge?
Zephyr Benson feels the same way. A recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School (the same school that gave us Lee and Scorsese), Benson is set to deliver us a harsh, gritty portrayal of life in the East Village and the LES with his debut feature Straight Outta Tompkins.
Like Scorsese and Lee did with their first major features, Benson’s is based around his life living in NYC. Benson grew up addicted to heroin, witnessed friends battle and die due to heroin addiction. Now he’s putting those experiences on the big screen, specifically to those who believe NYC is just a place filled with coffee shops and overpriced dive bars.
Benson stars (as well as writes) as Gene: an 18-year-old kid on the verge of obtaining a baseball scholarship. He has no immediate family and is taken in by a family living in the Lower East Side. The family brings the kid into the drug game, with Gene selling narcotics, and takes us into the middle class drug scene here in NYC. Gene becomes an addict himself, performing as well as witnessing the kind of violence that comes with being in that kind of subversive, cut-throat world.
More Mean Streets than Frances Ha (sorry Baumbach) this first teaser, first posted on Bowery Boogie, reminds us of the NYC films of the 70’s, where happy endings were not guaranteed and where art and real life came together to create a worthwhile experience inside a dark theater. Watching this trailer, we saw people we knew, places we have been through and, sadly, experiences we have heard of. The film is set to release on March 6th, we are definitely not going to miss out on a new face in NYC cinema.