An intriguing look at power
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, October 8, 2010
The Apple iPad, IBM, the depilatory Nads. Sometimes a bad name can give people pause. Such is the case with "Ghettophysics: Will the Real Pimps and Hos Please Stand Up!" a movie with a title that will undoubtedly alienate a large percentage of the movie-going public. But even those disinclined by the off-putting moniker might find some ideas worth pondering.
Written and directed by E. Raymond Brown and William Arntz (the man behind the 2004 "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"), the movie explores the power balance between pimps and prostitutes, an omnipresent dynamic that, the film posits, shows up in boardrooms, foreign policy and most people's day-to-day lives. It's a story of exploitation that transcends the streets, in which one person does all the work, another reaps the profit and, often, a third party receives the goods. This is as much about oil and diamonds as it is the stereotype of a man in a colorful suit toting a shiny cane (although there are plenty of pimps in the film, too).
Like "What the Bleep," this movie is a bit of a hodgepodge, blending an interview-driven documentary with a less remarkable story-based drama.
The interviewees are particularly compelling, and Arntz and Brown have secured some big names. Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Princeton professor Cornel West offer a cerebral take, while Ice-T gives a more street-focused view. KRS-One, the charismatic and occasionally divisive hip-hop pioneer behind the "Stop the Violence" movement, gives insights as entertaining as they are provocative.
Unfortunately, the interviews are interspersed with a drama that clutters the message more than illuminates it. A college professor, played by writer-director Brown, teaches his class "ghettophysics," and some of the call and response ("Class, is this ghetto?" "Soooo ghetto!") as well as other examples of goofy dialogue seem to follow the "Schoolhouse Rock" method of education, as if the filmmakers need to either dumb down or jazz up their hypothesis to make it more palatable.
Despite the periodic silly moments, there is value in "Ghettophysics." Along with fodder for a lively discussion about free will, the docudrama invites viewers to take a moment to look at their own lives and ask: Who or what informs my choices? You might just be surprised by the answer.
Contains offensive language.