Spike Lee has used his career to draft love letters to the different aspects of New York City, and Michael Mann has left us two gritty pictures of the non-glitzy Los Angeles in his crime sagas 'Heat' and 'Collateral'. The directors, and their cinematographers, show the filmgoing public the cities they love from a different angle, turning the sprawling metropolises into living, breathing characters with plenty of problems of their own. In Tao Ruspoli's 'Fix', the director casts LA as a redemption-seeking addict, searching for its next score -- be it getting clean, enough money to break even, or a drug fix.
I won't waste your time breaking down the plot, because watching it unravel, and seeing how the characters evolve and build off of one another, is very much a part of the film's magic. Shawn Andrews is captivating as Leo, a charismatic addict, that commands the attention from all those on screen. Even if the film wasn't shot in a mockumentary fashion, which forces the attention of the camera on Andrews, all eyes would be on his performance. He captures the nuances of drug addiction with eerie perfection, from the manic highs to the horrific, depressing lows. Olivia Wilde, who is arguably the most famous name in the cast, plays the role of the reluctant Bella, girlfriend/partner to Leo's brother Milo (Ruspoli, in a non-vanity role as videographer). She is allowed to engage in some wonderful banter with Andrews, able to deliver sarcasm with subtle bite, although you can see her character is somewhat enthralled by the morally-disturbed world she's found herself thrust into.
Ah, yes, the morally-disturbed world. Los Angeles is shown in all its aspects, from the gorgeous mansions of the hills to drug dens in the barrios. The socio-economic issues are made quite obvious in terms of juxtaposition, but if I had to ding Ruspoli on anything, it would have to be exposition of these issues. The cast drives past the South Central Farm on their way to Watts, and the dispute of the garden is briefly talked about. There is no resolution to the issue, and I saw no greater need for the moment other than the beautiful cinematography. Then again, I know very little about the South Central Farm debacle, not being a Los Angeles or Southern California native, and it may have some deeper meaning than I may know of. Otherwise, the story is fast-paced, the characters well-rounded, and the dialogue sharp.
One thing that may turn off some older viewers is the visual style of the film. It is hyper-kinetic when it needs to be, gorgeous color tones captured in various forms of exposure, the camera jumping about, the editing blade splicing quickly, framerate sped up. It comes from the MTV school of Oliver Stone's 'Natural Born Killers' and the first 'Crank' film, fast and fun without the dizzying, nauseating editing of a Paul Greengrass movie. But when it comes to plot exposition, Ruspoli lets the camera linger on his subjects. Obviously as a photographer, he knows how to play with light and composition -- it especially shows in a scene between Milo and Leo in a candlelit drug den.
'Fix' isn't a movie for everyone. It shows some of the darker aspects of human nature, and is quite explicit in its portrayal of drug addiction -- not as bad as some, but it's rather heartbreaking to see the effect it has on Leo and those that care about him. It is, however, a visual masterpiece, driven by strong performances and solid writing, and leaves you wanting more.