“The Land” opens up with a simple, overstated question directed to four teenagers: “What are you going to do with your life?” The school principal asks each of them individually.
It’s a question that resonates vividly throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime, interwoven between footage of the students committing crimes later in the narrative. We follow a coalition of naive, high school skateboarders by the names of Cisco, Junior, Patty and Boobie, on the streets of Cleveland. The group’s friendship is tested through a very saturated plot that is predictable and cheesy at times.
However, I enjoyed this movie. It’s a stylish look into the lives of the impoverished, which is complicated to pull off considering how pretentious the idea sounds on paper. “The Land” is entertaining and mostly self-conscious, besides a few disingenuous montages and some cardboard dialogue.
In no way is this film a documentary. There are too many dramatic plot conveniences, and real families of this particular socio-economic status experience a much harsher reality. But the teens’ motivations are grounded in that harsh reality. They yearn to pursue a lifestyle that glorifies drugs, sex and money, to the detriment of their loved ones.
The leader of the squad, Cisco, feels the brute, unrelenting force of this transformation. He is very stoic in nature so we don’t see his character growth explicitly. His decision-making processes and mental health are very much affected by the end — so much so that, for how predictable the movie’s plot is presented, I actually really enjoyed how everything was wrapped up in its conclusion.
“The Land” does some things right, the first of which is flipping typical typecasting roles. Right from her introduction, we see that the antagonist is a sweet, middle-aged farmer that one would believe has no place in this particular story. Our young Black and Latino protagonists accidentally disrupt her supply chain, and the audience is left to make sense of this foreign, cinematic situation.
Since the film was produced by rapper Nas, hip-hop music is utilized in a very compelling manner. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with great rap music, though I’d be remiss to say it’s not all cliche. You can see that uplifting J-Cole track coming from a mile away.
The cinematography is good too, even great at particular points of the movie. Some shots of the skaters doing tricks utilize dynamic camera movement, meaning we essentially see how the board moves from the perspective of the lens. It’s something I’ve never seen before and though brief, it warrants mentioning.
On the surface, the movie is a skateboard flick of a few teenagers getting into trouble and dealing with real world consequences. On a deeper level , however, there’s a glaring message about race, class and privilege, with the kids wrapped up in circumstances that, as the audiences comes to find, have no easy way out of.
The most important thing I can say about this movie, as a critic, is that I didn’t feel like I wasted my time. With that said, you might want to check this one out.
“The Land” will be showing at the SUB Theater this weekend, brought to students by the ASUNM Southwest Film Center.
Audrin Baghaie is a culture reporter and movie reviewer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AudrinTheOdd.
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox