From director Julian Grant comes this this Neo-Noir, heist gone wrong action thriller. Two stoners, Steve and Billy, smoke the stash of dope they are supposed to sell. But when their dealer shows up looking for his money, they devise a plan to knock off a lucrative carwash to pay him back. But that's when everything goes horribly wrong in a blaze of bullets, blood and glorious ruin in the seedy underworld backstreets of Chicago.
In the film, SWEET LEAF, Steve, and Billy are small time drug dealers, for a dealer named, Tyvan. Problems arise for the two when they just so happen to smoke all of the product themselves. Now in a bind, as they owe Tyvan a large sum of cash, the two scramble to find a solution. That is when Steve devises a plan to knock over a lucrative carwash in the suburbs. With the blueprint of their plan laid out, the two move forward, while including 2 others, mutual friend Byrdy, and seemingly everyone's girl, the promiscuous, Mary Lou, as accomplices. The plan is set to go in motion on the upcoming Friday, however things become complicated when the group's trust is broken, and word gets out to Tyvan himself, who demands a much bigger cut than what he is owed. It is from there, that things essentially snowball for the group, as both drugs and deceit seep in, not to mention, murder. When Billy accidentally kills one of Tynan's men in an act of self defense, Steve and the gang go into panic mode, quickly proceeding with their robbery plans 2 days early. But of course with the rushed nature of it all, things go horribly wrong, as their acts, in the end, make them not only wanted by Tyvan, but by the local Police as well.
SWEET LEAF, a film which was written and directed by Julian Grant presents us with a story that we have seen quite often in movies, in that a person, or persons find themselves in debt to a drug dealer, and so, must resort to drastic measures in order to pay it. That is basically what we have here, as we have 2 drug dealers in Steve and Billy, who pretty much, like the "doing" part more than the "selling" part, and as such, their actions have since landed him in some hot water with a dope dealer named Tyvan. Of course they come up with a harebrained scheme to make some quick money, by robbing a local carwash. But of course, as it is in most cases in real life. they don't really think things through, and then of course things go horribly wrong. They also do not think of the many consequences that come with such a crime, and that sometimes, you can't trust everyone. Deceit is a big theme in SWEET LEAF, as when it comes down to it, trust is the biggest factor, and is the major cause of, not only the downfall of Steve and Billy, but everyone in the film.
As for story structure, their aren't a lot of surprises to be found in SWEET LEAF(although their are a few minor twists in the latter part of the film), as most of the film moves along in the way that you expect them to. In the beginning, Steve and Billy's robbery plans seems a little too easy, and when they move on to include Byrdy, and Mary Lou, you just know that secrets won't be kept. You know that it won't be long before word of the plan gets out. And indeed, word gets out. It gets back to Tyvan, who then puts immediate pressure on them. Things then proceed to go exactly as you'd expect, as everyone involved in the robbery begin to blame each other, thus further confusing their plans. And if things couldn't get any worse for the group of ragtag, would-be criminals, they do, when one of Tyvan's men is killed. After this event, Steve, Billy, and their hired hands move on with the robbery plans(albeit 2 days early), because the film had spent so much in the beginning building it up, so why not? Yeah, so they kill someone, dump their body, and then abruptly decide to go rob a carwash, because after all, they still owe Tyvan money. You know, Tyvan, the man, whose associate that they just killed? It really isn't logical thinking, but maybe it is just the film's way of displaying just how desperate....or dumb these people truly are. And speaking of dumb. I really thought it was dumb of Steve and Billy to still include both Byrdy and Mary Lou in their robbery plans, after they suspected both of them, at one time, of snitching to Tyvan. You don't trust these 2 people entirely, yet you trust them enough to trust them to participate in a robbery with you? Right. Overall, the film itself is fairly uneven. The first half of the film, is basically reserved for the introductions of the characters, and it's somewhat cheesy. You get a sense that the film doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It opens up with the same grindhouse style intro, the kind that is pretty much tired now, yet it doesn't feel quite "grindhouse-y" enough. A grainy image, and random facial zooms from the camera, are just not enough to convince. It also tries to be a comedy, yet the "funny" is pretty much hit and miss. Granted, sometimes it's funny, but sometimes it just feels as though the film is just trying too hard. Not to mention that, for the most part, all of the film's characters are pretty silly - especially "Tyvan". Tyvan, is a white drug dealer, yet he walks with swagger and speaks ebonics, and almost everything he says is in rhyme(he "raps" everything he says). Tyvan is essentially everything we hate about these types whom embrace "urban culture"(my "nice" way of putting it). I get that he is intended to be funny, but in the end, he's just really annoying. As for the other characters, they are none too detailed, yet are very stereotypical of film. There's "Steve" and "Billy". Steve is the more smart(er) one. He's the leader, and Billy, well, he's the younger of the 2, inexperienced and is basically the follower. The two of them are no different than the criminal types that we see in just about every film involving some sort of crime. Likewise are the characters of Byrdy and Marylou. Byrdy is the one to participate just as long as he doesn't have to "participate" in the robbery. And Mary Lou, she's the typical slut type, who will screw anyone, and screw over anyone, to get what she wants. All together, the characters are ok, but are too basic. There is nothing that's unique about them to, in end make us care too much about them. However, with that said, I will give SWEET LEAF some credit when I say that the last half of the film is far better than the first, as the film seems to finally pick up more of a direction. The comedy bits and all that, at this point seem to take a backseat, in favor of a more suspenseful element, which things begin to get a little better. When the action kicks in, and the tension mounts, you really get the feeling that the film is really going somewhere. But no matter how much good the latter portion of SWEET LEAF gives us, unfortunately just come a little too late. Not to mention that it again tries to be something else, when it throws in a supernatural element, right at the last possible minute. The supernatural element itself seems to have been tacked on at the last minute, thus further complicating an already, unnecessarily complicated film, even further.
To sum it up, I thought that SWEET LEAF was just ok. I mean, it has a decent enough plot, but it just doesn't have any real sense of focus. It just tries to be too many things at once. Again, in giving credit - I liked most of the film's last act. I will also say, that most of the film's acting is fairly decent as well. I also liked the idea of showing the quotes on screen(When Tyvan spouts out a nice clever quote, it is scrawled across the screen, along with the person it is attributed to), and how in one scene, there is a counter located at the bottom on the screen, which tallies the number of times the word, "fuck", and its many variables are said by the characters during the scene. Both of these things were both clever and inventive, in my opinion. Now, if only the rest of my film could have kept my interest just as much.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
What I have said above, basically sums up my feelings about SWEET LEAF. It's a film with an ok, basic premise, but in the end, tries to add a little bit too much, in terms of comedy, Horror and Sci-Fi. I feel that, had it stuck mostly with a theme that was more suspenseful, the film would have fared much better. But as is, it's just an ok film, that is really uneven, and unfocused overall.