Bram Stoker's Street Wars

Director: Jamaa Fanaka

Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!

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Frank, the city's top drug dealer, and his little brother, Sugar Pop, are out on his boat, discussing their respective futures. Frank explains, basically, that with the prominent position in his occupation of choice, that being a crack dealer, he hopes to establish a bright future for Sugar Pop and the rest of their family. But even though selling drugs has provided t"I'm the luckiest boy in the world!"hem with a lush lifestyle, all the wealth and fame that comes with the territory just "don't mean doodley."

Now, wait a second, would this hardened criminal, or any street thug for that matter, have the word "doodley" in their vocabulary? On second thought, does any rational human being ever resort to that expression? Who would be intimidated by a mugger who accosted you with, "Gimme all your doodley money! And don't give me any doodley shit!"?

Anyway, its graduation day at Exeter Military Prep Academy, and as it turns out, Sugar Pop has been recognized as the school's Top Gun in aviation, thus enabling him to attend one of the most prestigious institutions in the country - West Point. When I say Top Gun, however, I don't mean as in jet pilots. At Exeter, the students are trained in the fine art of combat recreational vehicles, or Ultra-Lights. Simply, hang-gliders with a motor and a little bucket seat. I guess the intention for these weapons of mass destruction would be to induce fits of laughter into the enemy, and once doubled-over, blow them away.

After graduation, Sugar Pop returns home to the ghetto, where things have made a turn for the worse: rampant crack dealing, prostitution, and kids playing footballDeluxe accomodations at Frank's Crack House in the streets with a total disregard for traffic. Sugar Pop meets up with his girlfriend, Twyla, who is now employed as a look-out for Frank's Crack House. After informing Twyla of his disapproval in her choice of occupation, the neighborhood kids surround Sugar Pop, convinced that military life had changed him, and he was no longer in touch with life on the streets.

So, Sugar Pop takes their football, and throws a Hail Mary down the block - only to run and catch the pass himself! Immediately after his amazing feat, the kids acknowledge him as one of their own, and thus Sugar regains his street credibility. It makes perfect sense if you think about it.

Meanwhile, Frank and his second-in-command, Humongous (because he's tall - get it?) arrive, and spot a maintenance van parked outside of Frank's place of business. After determining that the van was not, in fact, "The Man," Frank realizes that its something even wThe street erupts in a violent game of Lazer Tagorse - the competition!

Frank and Humongous break out the big guns just as the van doors burst open and several hoodlums jump out and open fire. An intense battle rages (ok, semi-intense), with Frank and Humongous taking out quite a few of the goons before the police actually show up. The opposing faction's leader, Rock, angered at his comrade's ineptitude, kills the few survivors of his gang, and escapes into the neighborhood.

Eventually, The Man arrives, and arrests everyone who has yet to flee, including Frank and Humongous. Ma Graham, who, besides Sugar Pop, is Frank’s only family, bails Frank and Hugh out of jail, and they immediately begin to formulate a counterattack on their arch enemies, Rock, and his boss, Gratz, from the North Side.

Upon getting home from jail, Frank and Humongous are immediately greeted by their respective loved ones, for, as explained by Sugar Pop’s voiceover, getting out of jail makes them horny; a feeling, I’m sure, most can relate to. After finishing "The Business," Frank and Humongous break out the automatic weapons, and head out to one of Gratz’s nightclubs (presumably, at the aforementioned NorthWilliams! Side), and proceed to obliterate a majority of the employees, patrons, and a good portion of the club itself, for, as Humongous explains, "They take care of personal matters, personally." Which, again, makes perfect sense when you think about it.

After the successful siege, Frank, Humongous, Sugar Pop, and their significant others head out to Chez Mois, a fancy French restaurant, to celebrate. Unfortunately, Gratz somehow knows of Frank’s dining engagement, and has him assassinated in the restroom. When trying to escape, the assassin is viciously gunned down by Sugar Pop, symbolizing his departure from normal society, and his introduction to the life of a street gangster, or, as we in "the know" (i.e. the streets) put it, "gangsta."

After Frank’s funeral, Sugar Pop rides around town on his moped, soul-searching; he then makes his way to Twyla’s house, packs up her and her family, and brings them back to his abode to reside. Then, Sugar and Humongous call forth a meeting of the Knights of the Round Table; an organization comprised of the city's top crime lords, previously assembled and ran by Frank. Sugar announces to the Knights his intention to assume Frank’s prominent position on the ladder of street thug-iness. The little opposition to Sugar’s announcement is Kind of reminds me of a young Al Pacino. Well, maybe not.squashed immediately after a display of power where Sugar Pop gives several of the women from his family guns, and they, in turn, threaten the gangsters. I’m sure if I was a hardened street criminal, I, too, would be threatened by Sugar Pop’s girlfriend.

Sugar then puts the second phase of his plan into motion, which is to train his gang on how to fly the Ultra-Lights, which, after strapping Uzi's to the front, will give them the distinct advantage of aerial attacks (or, a fly-by). Luckily, Sugar's fellow gang members prove to be quick studies, and soon they are all Ultra-Light Top Guns like the Maverick himself, Sugar Pop. To celebrate their mastery in aviation, Sugar Pop and the gang head out to the club for a night of drinking and dancing. When they return to the Pop residence, however, they find their family had been slaughtered by Gratz's cronies. Sugar Pop, grief-stricken, then realizes the error of his ways, and decides that its time to give up selling drugs, and focus his forces on eliminating his enemies, and thus clean the streets of narcotics. So, Sugar Pop and the gang take to the air, for a final showdown between them and the evil crimelords of the North Side, Gratz and Rock.

Being that this was directed by Jamaa Fanaka, the same gentleman who broughtThe Knights of the Round Table. I wonder if any of these jokers gets to push the pram alot? us SOUL VENGEANCE, I expected something a little different. If you haven't seen SOUL VENGEANCE, I highly recommend you go and pick it up. I don't want to explain the story, for it'll ruin the "surprise."

Anyway, though I was expecting something different, I was not prepared for the utter bizarreness which is STREET WARS. This movie almost defies explanation. At some points, its a somewhat conventional urban gangster film a la MENACE TO SOCIETY; at others, its a surrealist fantasy. I mean, this movie is just-damn-weird. Comprehension can only possibly be attained through a viewing of this film. Even after seeing it, I still can't believe it.

Though I've seen only a few of his works, Fanaka strikes me as a director in the vein of, say, Ed Wood and Ray Dennis Steckler. I don't mean this as an insult. What these men lack in talent, they make up for in inspiration. Their movies are never boring (well, a few Steckler pieces aside). STREET WARS is not a good film. But it is a fascinatingly strange film, and highly recommended for the bad movie aficionado in you.

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These are the times of which to cherish...

- The STREET WARS theme song: "STREET!" (pause) "WARS!" (repeat several times)

I think this was a ploy to distract us from reading the names of the guilty

The credit rap.

- In the opening scene concerning Frank's Crack House, we have all the dealers on one side of the living room, and all their junkie customers, locked in a huge cell, on the other. The ones not smoking crack are begging for their next fix. At the same time, one of the dealers studies algebra - of which, I assume, is very practical in the crack trade.

- When the cops raid Frank's Crack House, the dealers, luckily, have a convenient barrel of acid of which to dump the incriminating evidence into. As everyone knows, no crack house is complete without the requisite vat of acid.

All he lacks are some cards in the spokes

Sugar Pop not only drives a moped, but a moped equipped with a   Batmobile-like jet engine on the back. For one, how am I supposed to take someone seriously when they scoot around the 'hood on a moped? Second, how would one equip a moped, with the fantastic speed limit of maybe 30 MPH, with a jet rocket? Third, could someone teach me how to equip mine?

Just how much smoke do they have in the 'hood?

The super-imposed smoke. Apparently, real smoke was beyond their limited budget, so whenever Sugar Pop and the gang are flying about the city, be sure to look out for the super- imposed smoke that surrounds them. Kind of hard to miss when they're are always flying majestically into it (in slow motion, of course).

- Humongous' aforementioned statement, "We take care of personal matters, personally." Reminds me of the George Thorogood song in which George exclaims, "You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself." Brilliant.

"Ooh wee!"

Christy, one of Frank's crack dealers who also happens to be gay, not to mention as stereotypically flamboyant as possible. After learning how to maneuver his Ultra-Light, he gleefully exclaims, "Ooh wee! If the drag queens could see me now!" While one of Sugar Pop's handicapped underlings says, "Up here, I don't need no legs!" And a reporter states, "They've got their own ghetto Air Force!"

- The love theme from STREET WARS: "Sex you down, lick you down."

"Disco Duck" in the background stifled Sugar Pop's big entrance

The Sugar Pop theme song, which conveniently recaps Sugar's accomplishments throughout the film.

- The STREET WARS dance craze: "The Rooster." And no, I'm not making that up. Though it is cool, its not half as "fly" as Morris Day's "The Bird." It's got a funky beat, and I can bug out to it.

- Frank's assassination. I swear, Frank goes down before the hitman even fires.

It looks like she's about to tell the deceased to, 'Kiss her grits."

Finally, the crown jewel of the film: Frank's funeral scene. Remember when Jake "saw the light" in THE BLUES BROTHERS? Think of that, with about a quarter of the budget, and the song, "Let's make some noise (it's time to rejoice)." I was in awe. (Click on the picture to check out more scenes from Frank's funeral.)

-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman

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