BETTER LIVING THROUGH DRUGS
Film Review by Fiore
“Show business kids making movies of themselves. You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else. It’s outrageous.” – steely dan
Rough quote to begin a film review, but more than apropos for CARDINAL X, an autobiographic film from first time filmmaker Angie Wang. They tell you in writing class to always write about something you know. When filmmakers create movies about their own lives, it seems like the worst type of conceit. It begs the question, is your life the only thing you know, and what makes you think it’s so important it needs to be a movie? In addition, the story always seems to go through a whitewashing, bleached by the individual’s own version of events.
In the case of Angie Wang, she was a girl who led a promiscuous life she blamed on her upbringing, and after her recklessness resulted in tragedy, turned a new leaf to become a social worker. While the end result is noble, it is a story often told and one many consider a display of luck, since myriad others in similar situations never escape the tragedy.
Angie, played by Annie Q, is raised by her father. He is a simple man who works in a nearby Chinese restaurant. Angie’s mother was apparently a slut. She cheated on her husband and was banned from the house when he discovered her deceit. She married another man, a “white”man, who abuses Angie during her visits. When she attempts to tell her mother, she is beaten. Despite the tramp like behaviors of her mother, her father is painted as a cause of Angie’s sordid past because he was a strict disciplinarian. Ironically, he is the first person she runs to when the bottom falls out, and the only one who constantly supports her.
Angie is accepted into a prestigious university, and opts to attend, despite her father’s objections that the school is too expensive. When tuition is due and her father cannot pay the full tab, Angie resorts to a BREAKING BAD solution and creates a powerful form of Ecstasy which she begins distributing for enough money to pay her schooling and live la vida loca.
Her one tie to her roots is Bree, played by Aalyrah Caldwell, a young black girl for whom Angie is a Big Sister. Bree is the product of the life progressive liberals created for minorities. Her mother, Anita, played by Yetide Badaki, is a black, single parent crack whore. Angie has a strong compassion for Bree, yet is hypocritical enough not to notice, or care, that the cause of Bree’s problems is the drug environment she herself is using for monetary gain. The story reveals urban blacks caught in the drug market are victims, while it is perfectly fine and possibly justified to make and sell drugs to rich white kids. This is a vile form of racism.
After she causes the death of her friend Tommy, played by Scott Keiji Takeda, Angie confesses to her drug operation and is tossed out of school. She is forced to pay restitution to the university, but, surprisingly, she is not arrested, nor is there any jail time for being one of the biggest drug dealers in California. CARDINAL X does not detail how Angie managed that magic trick. All viewers know, is that after paying back her university fees, she returns home to her loving father and becomes a social worker. All is well that ends well, but it seems a large part of this story is glossed over.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE HOSPITAL VISIT
2. GOING HOME
The problem is the perception of the film. Angie Wang shows us her sexual promiscuity, including a drunken orgy and a threesome, and explains her revealing of these sex acts is an act of “woman empowerment”. Yeah, I raised my eyebrows on that one, too.
Let’s take a look at the report card for CARDINAL X:
1.2 ACTING = D
1.3 CINEMATOGRAPHY = C
1.4 SOUND/MUSIC = C
1.5 EDITING = D
1.6 LIGHTING = D
1.7 SCRIPT = F
1.8 SFX = D
1.9 ACTION = D
Technically, CARDINAL X has the look of an indie film. Most of the scenes are dark and grainy. The dialogue at times is stilted, and though it only happens in one sequence, jump cuts are used. Right now, after reading that, over 3,500 of my former TV/Film Production students just performed a face palm.
While I’m glad Angie Wang’s life turned out for the better, this first endeavor does not set any glimmer of future celluloid greatness. CARDINAL X will appeal to the sorry sods who are filled with white guilt for crimes they did not commit, and for those seeking additional government funds for their non-profit organizations.