Quality of Life

The world of tagging serves as the backdrop for Quality of Life, a highly uneven drama. The behind-the-scenes information behind the movie is more interesting than the movie itself. The concept came as a result of Robert Rodriguez. Writer/director Benjamin Morgan saw what Rodriguez was able to do with El Mariachi and slowly came up with the idea of Quality of Life. The movie was shot with an extremely low budget over about a month. The setting is the Mission District of San Francisco, looking grungier and more ominous than it ever did before. To help with the story, Morgan worked with graffiti artist Brian Burnam on developing a story, then eventually cast Burnam when one of the lead actors dropped out.

That's the interesting stuff. Burnam is probably the primary reason that Quality of Life suffers in...er...quality. He is not a professional actor, and his readings do not come across well. Burnam is stiff and unconvincing as Curtis Smith, aka "Vain." He is also not a professional writer, and the basic premise of the movie is pedestrian and overused. Smith is friends with Michael Rosario (Lane Garrison), aka "Heir," and both are notorious taggers. An arrest by the police causes the two to begin taking different paths. Rosario realizes that his life is going nowhere, and begins the arduous journey towards legitimacy. Smith descends into a haze of drinking, drugs, and other reckless activity. The disparate actions of the two leads causes a rift in their friendship that widens as Quality of Life progresses.

Morgan and Burnam's script is extremely predictable and not as deep as they think it is. Garrison does the better job acting, and has a better fleshed-out character. Rosario tags because it is like an urge for him. He also has a job with his father painting houses, yet painting an entire wall the same character frustrates him to no end. Smith knows he can tag well, and eventually tries to mesh his talents with something legal. He's growing up and becoming mature, and this is portrayed effectively. Rosario just flames out the same way that most movie characters do. He doesn't appreciate his girlfriend (Mackenzie Firgens, Rent, Groove).

It was an interesting idea to contrast the paths the two friends took, but turning the idea into a script did not work out too well. The characters are not too interesting, and it gets old listening to Rosario whine and complain. If Quality of Life spent more time with the Smith character, the film would have been more interesting. Aside from him, the only time the movie comes alive is when Morgan focuses on Burnam tagging. This does not happen as often as it should, causing a bit of boredom to set in. The watchability of the movie ebbs and flows such, with some true introspective moments followed by inane ones. Morgan ends on a high note, with a moment that is near transcendental.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Rated R for pervasive language, some drug use, and violence.

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