Lowlife Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Directed by Ryan Prows
Written by Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Ryan Prows and Maxwell Michael Towson
2017, 96 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on August 7th, 2018

Nicki Micheaux as Crystal
Ricardo Adam Zarate as El Monstruo
Jon Oswald as Randy
Shaye Ogbonna as Keith
Santana Dempsey as Kaylee
Mark Burnham as Teddy “Bear” Haynes
Jose Rosete as Agent Fowler



The lives of a Mexican wrestler, a desperate motel owner, an ex-con and his former accomplice and a pregnant woman in need of a fix are affected by a notorious criminal kingpin known as Teddy “Bear” Haynes. His crimes are legion but most notoriously include human trafficking and organ harvesting for the black market. Everyone in his orbit is under his thumb and unable to escape his grasp, but fate is about to step in through a series of coincidences that will allow the tables to turn for these social misfits.

I suggest going into this film blind. No trailer, no synopsis – just let it unfold before you and prepare to hang on. I won’t reveal any plot details so that you can fully enjoy this experience, but I will offer a few ancillary notes. The characters are not your typical heroes, as everyone in the picture is deeply flawed due in large part to their dealings with Haynes. The luchador is El Monstruo, a fallen wrestler with blinding fits of rage who works for the crime boss as an enforcer. The motel owner is in need of an organ donor for her ailing husband and is desperate enough to call on Haynes for help. Keith is the embezzling accountant forced into a kidnapping scheme with his friend Randy, who just got out of prison and Kaylee is the expectant mother in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Lowlife tells an intricate crime story from multiple perspectives with overlapping timelines that trace the tragic events of a single day in contemporary Los Angeles. Director Ryan Prows navigates the intertwined details with a confidence not typically found in a feature debut. This Rashomon approach to the material provides a fresh and welcome spin that some may view as Pulp Fiction for millennials. Prows co-wrote the script with Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna and Maxwell Michael Towson, and the team worked well together in creating this dark adventure. The plot unfolds across four chapters that introduce each character and provide a bit of backstory before pushing them into the driving narrative.

There’s a lot going on in this picture and Prows touches on several hot-button issues, including immigration, drug addiction and race relations. The script is well-crafted and full of rich character development that I did not expect going in, based on what I saw in the trailer. There are a few poignant moments as these people are given a second chance to correct their earlier mistakes. Lowlife is a pitch-black comedy wrapped up in some truly terrifying moments of graphic violence that are played in dead seriousness. The opening credits are particularly jarring, but thankfully do not represent the overall tone of the picture. The fun comes from the characters’ interaction and reactions to the events around them. The director does a lot with the material and turns these lowlifes into worthy protagonists that you will surprisingly find yourself rooting for. Avoid the spoilers and treat yourself to an unexpected thrill ride.


Video and Audio:

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the digitally shot feature looks gorgeous. Black levels are bottomless and colors really pop throughout the picture. There is plenty of small-object detail in hair and fabrics and I can’t imagine the image looking any better than it does here.

There are two audio options, a default DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix, and both do an admirable job in presentation. I opted for the expanded mix and really enjoyed the surround activity. Music cues are rich and well-balanced with dialogue and effects tracks.

Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

There are two audio commentaries on this disc. The first with director Prows and cinematographer Benjamin Kitchens and the second commentary features Prows with his fellow writers Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson and Shaye Ogbonna. Both of these tracks are well worth a listen, as they provide a lot of information about the production and the difficulties faced in bringing the picture to fruition.

A short (3 minute) making of featurette interviews members of the cast and crew with clips from movie all in a rapid fire presentation that will leave you wanting something a bit more thorough.

Three “short films” are also included, although they more closely resemble deleted scenes. Up first is Fiends (1 minute), with the motel owners receiving the kidney diagnosis. This is a single take with off-camera narration giving the information. Next up is Thugs (7 minutes), showing Randy’s last day of freedom before reporting to jail. The scene is presented as a collection of moments captured on a camcorder. Finally we have Monsters (2 minutes), which features El Monstruo working out in the gym and addressing the camera in Spanish without translation.

The original trailer is included.

Trailers for additional IFC Midnight features play upon disc startup.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
Other articles by this writer


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