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MOVIE REVIEW

A gripping story gets a bit bogged 'Down'

September 19, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

The back story of "How It All Went Down" is way more interesting than the film.

According to Silvio Pollio, its star and writer-producer-director, he went to film school with Carmine "Istante" Cavelli, lost track of him, grew close when their paths crossed later, then lost touch again.

To finance his dream of becoming a filmmaker, Cavelli turned to drug dealing, reportedly becoming one of the biggest dealers in the Pacific Northwest between 1995 and his disappearance in 1997. Along the way, Cavelli seems to have become his own best customer.

Judging from a scene Pollio stages in emulation of a sequence that was to have been included in "V.I.O.L.E.N.T.," the never-made film that was supposed to have launched Cavelli's career, the world has not lost an auteur, for it is an ultra-sadistic dominatrix episode.

So much for Cavelli's cinematic aspirations, which are never really revealed. It would seem that Cavelli's true calling was drug dealing, which he apparently pursued with unflagging zeal and determination until he started sampling his own goods.

The greatest problem in a most problematic picture is that Pollio never provides any reason to be the least bit concerned with Cavelli, whose film aspirations apparently rose only to the level of a schlockmeister. The bulk of the movie is taken up with repetitive drug deals on the streets of Vancouver, a decidedly depressing and finally boring business.

Whether Cavelli actually became drawn to a pretty runaway (Daniella Evangelista) and tried to steer away from drugs or not, her appearance well into the film plays like an attempt to reveal a spark of human decency in the drug dealer and turn the film into an ill-starred love story. Unfortunately, the result is more bathos than pathos.

The only element that keeps the film from falling apart entirely is powerful physical presence of Pollio, an experienced, impassioned young actor. As a director, he may be hard driving and committed, but his underdeveloped script is further undermined by his film's serious technical flaws, which include camerawork that lops off characters' heads for no apparent reason. The sound is uneven, and background music frequently drowns out dialogue.

It is understandable that Pollio would see a possible film in Cavelli's story, but he has failed to reveal why it was worth telling.

*

'How It All Went Down'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Much drug taking, constant drug dealing, violence, language

Silvio Pollio...Carmine "Istante" Cavelli

Daniella Evangelista...Stella

Franco Valenti...Frank

Paige Gray...Lisa

Jay Winston Cramer...Jay

An SP Entertainment presentation of a Renaissance Publishing production. Writer-producer-director Silvio Pollio. Executive producer-associate producer Andy Chu. Cinematographer-associate producer David Bercovici-Artieda. Editors Larry Di Stefano, Pollio. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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