A Pencil and a Gun

Cut Throat City is better as a message than a film. It’s flush with stock heist movie material, disconnected characters, and minuscule bit parts lacking in depth.

What matters more is Cut Throat City’s fiery, violent protest speak, featuring talented and intelligent black men defeated by frustrating poverty. This isn’t a movie shy about suggesting conspiracies, digging into New Orleans’ history to expose the political maneuvers designed to gentrify neighborhoods. The story is fictional, but steeped in Bush-era tragedy as a plodding government effort to clean up post-Hurricane Katrina ignored the city’s lower income wards.

Cut Throat City is a demonstration film

Ethan Hawke plays a former cop, a background part, acting as a moral bridge between casino heists and their necessity for those FEMA left behind. It’s difficult, stunted in delivery (almost fourth wall breaking), and clumsy, if necessary. Cut Throat City is a demonstration film; set in 2005, the staging doesn’t feel out of place now. The design is to expose systemic inequality, and imagery builds on racial division. Intent is clear, forceful, and personal.

Much is asked of Shemeik Moore, playing a young, newly married comic artist struggling to make any industry headway. There’s a grueling scene where Moore meets an executive, with Moore tapering his personality because it’s clear he knows to downplay any potential bias.

Moore’s character does awful things. He’s caught up amid knowingly awful people, puts himself in dangerous circumstances, and then tries to get out. That’s Cut Throat City’s point – powerful people allow him to leave, no charges pressed, but poverty magnetizes the urge to go back. For these kids – lost 20-somethings – their future doesn’t revolve around art. Implicit social bigotry costs society, and few ever know what’s lost in such an imbalanced system.

Unfortunately, the thematic energy drains over the runtime. What’s too sluggish early becomes a jumble in the third act, introducing too many players, side stories, and connections. Cut Throat City tries justifying Ethan Hawke’s role, linking him up the chain, before discarding him entirely. For a narrative determined to depict post-Katrina poverty, that falls apart when setting up meetings in lavish homes. It’s meant to show those in power never lose control over even minor infractions, but that’s obvious. That’s Cut Throat City’s point, up to and including conspiracy theories. Politicians, police, and agencies all dictate the lives of anyone deemed too poor to compete. Shame that’s muddled in a messy script.


Often glistening digital video extracts tremendous detail from these images. Facial texture matches superb resolution, defining skin, clothing, and other materials. Other than stock footage from Katrina, there’s no inherent concern in the visuals. A grain filter is easily handled by Well Go’s encoding.

Color grading usually favors warmth, and to no detriment of primaries. Lush saturation lets these hues pop, producing hearty, dense imagery. The longer Cut Throat City goes, the more things turn toward crisp blues, and those do sap some of the energy, but by design.

Hot contrast looks appropriate, and as such, the clipping isn’t concerning. Strong shadows bring depth, preserving detail without crush.


Driven mostly by music and the soundtrack, the mix plays with the low-end to stretch range. Thumping beats push LFE power. In the opening act, thunder does too. Gunshots lack the same ferocity in comparison.

It’s generally dry and budget-conscious audio mixing, lacking in surround activity. Visiting a swamp, the rears pick up ambient sounds, including insects and frogs. Shoot-outs play with debris fields, if still lackluster. There’s nothing off with the DTS-HD mix, rather the restrained source.


A nine-minute EPK delves into the production, covering basics. Six deleted/extended scenes reach a bit beyond 10-minutes. Trailers follow.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Cut Throat City
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A better message than movie, Cut Throat City delves into the post-Katrina landscape and how inequality offered no out other than crime.

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