Let me tell you, SMOKE gets in your eyes. I don't know what
that means, but I imagine at least two-thirds of the movie reviewers on
the planet made that connection in their SMOKE review, so I had to
take the opportunity too... SMOKE isn't about smoking, although the
one thing all its characters have in common is an affinity for inhaling
poison into their lungs. Harvey Keitel plays the owner of a cigar /
cigarette store, with various plots and subplots connected to patrons
like author Paul Benjamin (William Hurt) and an ex-girlfriend (?).
Hurt's story begins as a 17-year-old black kid named Rashid
(or Thomas or Paul) pushes him out of the way of an oncoming truck,
saving his life. Hurt insists on retribution and, upon learning Rashid is
running from some tough guys, lets him stay at his place for a few
days. This has all the makings of a "Fresh Prince of Brooklyn" sitcom
(or an underground porno flick), but instead leads to another subplot,
where Rashid finally locates his real father, who befriends him without
knowing his true identity (millionaire Bruce Wayne). Keitel,
meanwhile, is told of a daughter he never knew he never knew, a
pregnant, 18-year-old crack addict (Ashley Judd). She pleads him to
talk sense into Ashley, so she'll mend her crazy ways and stop
recording all that crappy country music.
These subplots eventually collide in a few ways, with Keitel
sharing a truly compelling Christmas story with Hurt and Rashid
working at the cigar store. I find it hard to believe, even in a movie,
that any black teenager would hang out with fifty-year-old white guys.
That has about the same statistical probability as Newt Gingrich and
Bill Clinton teaming up to cruise for chicks at a topless bar. Then
again, several Washington insiders have told me that's happened on
more than one occasion, so what do I know? But I do know this --
SMOKE is a masterpiece in plot and dialogue. It may be a low-budget,
low-action movie, but it's definitely worth watching.
An aside -- SMOKE almost threw a monkey wrench into my
Keitel Postulate, which states that Harvey Keitel only plays cops and
criminals in the movies. Here, he seems to be neither, but notice how
one of the plot points involves his illegal smuggling of Cuban cigars
into the country. That's criminal activity, my friend, and it once again
saves my Keitel Postulate from being thrown out the window.
Copyright © 1996 Andrew Hicks