Review: Skid Row

Skid Row too often comes to feel like a vanity project.

Skid Row
Photo: Screen Media Films

Obviously cramped by L Boogie’s ego, Pras takes a page from the Morgan Spurlock handbook, traveling to Skid Row and pretending to be homeless in a dubious attempt at learning how the other side lives. Though the Fugee is more ambitious than all those dipshits from celebrity gossip shows who don fat suits and trek into the outside world in order to come to the earth-shattering conclusion that hot guys don’t like holding doors for fat chicks, he has an awful time expressing what his ostensible experiment in empathy reveals besides the difficultly of walking around all day without a Blackberry. While hustling on the street, Pras has the nerve to tell a woman who brings him food that he’s a vegetarian; earlier, he discovers that flashing his teeth is a great way to score pocket change and promises to smile more once he returns to regular society. The filmmakers cast an important light on a dark spot on our nation’s conscience, tracing Skid Row’s roots back to the 1890s, trotting out numbers to show how residents are split along racial lines, and interviewing caregivers from local centers and others who survived this ten-by-five-block area of downtown Los Angeles that accounts for the largest concentration of homeless people in the country. But an inordinate amount of attention is given to Pras’s efforts to keep his camera crew on the down low, and Skid Row too often comes to feel like a vanity project, with the focus of the film frequently shifting away from Skid Row’s history and people to Pras’s sketchy immersion in homelessness, whether it is marveling at a man shooting up heroin or pestering white girls about why they’re in the area. Pras wants to come across as totally street but he spends too much time doing very un-homeless things, ragging on his camera crew and trying to find a woman’s missing son with the help of workers from area missions. In the end, it seems telling that we don’t even get to see Mr. Hanky hit the ground when Pras squats down to take a dump on the side of the street.

Score: 
 Cast: Pras  Director: Ross Clarke, Niva Dorell, Marshall Tyler  Distributor: Screen Media Films  Running Time: 90 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2007  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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