6+ Cut Throat City Reviews – Hurricane Katrina good backdrop for crime caper

Cut Throat City ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This dropped into theaters out of nowhere on our radar. Didn’t see any advance fanfare and liked the choice of the background for a crime thriller set during the Hurricane Katrina timeframe. The New Orleans area was ripped apart and flooded and I’ve often wondered why his wasn’t used as the backdrop for more movies (maybe it has been and have just missed them).

Unfolding in the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, RZA’s trenchant take on the synergistic interaction of poverty and greed gradually loses focus as it devolves into a familiar account of warring gangsters, corrupt politicians and a city struggling for redemption. Cut Throat City will doubtless grab the attention of RZA’s diverse fanbase, but looks unlikely to make a significant mark among contemporary crime dramas.

‘Cut Throat City’: Film Review | Hollywood Reporter

… you’ve been warned, SPOILERS ahead …

In and out of the theater fast

We saw this on opening weekend and it was gone shortly thereafter from the theater. This isn’t a positive sign normally for interest in the film, but I think this one got a bad break because there was a lot here.

When you see this on streaming — probably soon, I’d imagine — it’s worth checking out.

Too long, yes, the modern version of filmmaker’s bloat

RZA must subscribe to the Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese school of longer films are better. Sure, they can be, if the material supports the run time. Otherwise, it’s just going to irritate moviegoer bladders. This film is weighted down by a gang of characters that have some subplots and arcs, but not enough to warrant the run time.

Part of the problem is there are trying to be too many tales told. Is this about the corruption of FEMA? Poverty in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina? A botched casino robbery? A group of friends making bad decisions? A vicious crimelord? A man who tries to get a job, fails and then turns to crime? It’s about all of these things … and yet never really commits to any single one.

The throw everything against the wall and see what sticks film style leaves the viewer feeling undecided about what to care most about.

Hurricane Katrina backdrop is great

A positive that I just couldn’t get over when watching was how good the background was for this story. It seemed well researched and the dark and gritty cinematography was catchy. This kept me in the movie, despite the other flaws.

Let’s talk about the double ending

Yes, not one ending, but two. As you can tell from our review, we were more than a little confused which ending was correct. Since we’re in spoiler territory, we can talk about the ending in the comments. We’re not sure if it was the happy ending or the other ending … which one?

Reviews by Others

What do others think of Cut Throat City?


  1. A King Named Simba (7/10): “The movie is a little weighed down by superfluous characters, but the performances are strong overall and the story is grounded in a reality missing from most heist movies.”
  2. Film Inquiry / Zachary David Rogers: “A film like Cut Throat City could easily fall into cliches in its treatment of race, poverty, and crime, but RZA, screenwriter P.G. Cushieri, and the magnificent cast of this film constantly work to humanize the characters and to help us understand how their actions grow out of their material circumstances.”
  3. J. Luke Carney / Ludicrous Movie Reviews (70/100): “It feels like forever since I’ve seen engaging storytelling like this”
  4. Jonita Davis / Blerd Galaxy Magazine: “…is not your average heist film. In addition to being an epic journey, the story begins and ends with a celebration of Black love that makes the perfect bookends to this story…until RZA’s pipe wrench of an ending comes in to play with your emotions.”

Not Recommended

  1. Joe Baker / Dallas Film Now: “Juggling all these characters, Cut Throat City eventually loses its drive and devolves into cliche violence begetting violence. Unlike last year’s Queen and Slim that poses some of the same candid reverberations about racial inequality and a Bonnie-and-Clyde-like middle-finger-to-America saga of promising livelihoods gone wrong, RZA’s film lacks the nuance that made Melina Matsoukas’ film so incisive.”
  2. Music City Drive-in / Richard Valero: “The film was far from perfect, and it surely had some flaws, but overall it is a very watchable movie. The story is somewhat easy to follow after that rough around the edges opening thirty minutes. You find yourself invested in what is to come, and that’s what makes the film good.”
  3. rogerinorlando / Movie Nation: “…even though RZA makes GREAT use of the city and delivers a movie rich with local color and atmosphere, even though characters make relevant points about poverty, exploitation and corruption from the locals all the way up to the Feds, even though he rounded up a good cast, “Cut Throat City” never gets on its feet and on the move.”

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Happy movie watching!

Cut Throat City ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cut Throat City – Rated R – 132 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Sunday August 23, 2020
Regal 16 Cinemas – Lacey, Washington
#29 new movie seen in theaters in 2020

A young father, James, is getting married, wants to be a graphic novel artist and Hurricane Katrina is about to strike. He doesn’t get the artist job and is facing severe money problems. His three friends are in no better shape and in addition, the hurricane has put most of the Ninth Ward where they live underwater and in peril.

The foursome hatches a plan to turn to crime, by taking a job sponsored by James wife’s Cousin Bass that’s a warlord. They attempt to rob a casino and the plan leads to a gunfight and finding one of the three dead. To make matters worse, the amount of money reported stolen is much higher than the actual amount leading Cousin Bass to believe they shorted him. The trio must now figure out how to make the cousin whole and avoid being captured by a detective put on the case to find the robbers.

There are multiple storylines running. FEMA is doing a poor job taking care of the impacted people, a politician wants those who ripped off the casino to pay, a higher level warlord known as The Saint (Terrence Howard) blends guns, drugs and faith. Keeping all these active plot threads in your head is a bit cumbersome at times, not to mention figuring out who bad, really bad and good. There’s some convoluted roles to sort out.

The run time is more than a little tedious at 132 minutes. With all the different plot threads and character development it supports being over two hours, but the director must come from the school of “longer movies are better” which is not one I subscribe to. I’m in favor of shorter is better, unless it’s justified. I think part of the justification here is fleshing out multiple characters and having multiple subplots, but I’m not sure the story really needed it, since the main character is James. If we focused on him, his family, his trials and tribulations, that could have been done in 90 minutes or less.

And then there’s the whole political aspect involving FEMA. That could — and probably should — have been a miniseries or movie all its own. Anybody who followed the news knows how screwed up FEMA was in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’m not sure this film, with all the other elements in play, could get into that enough to tell that story too

The most troubling part — the one we’re most criticizing — for Kara and I was the ending. Since this is a spoiler-free review, we can’t get deep into the details, but there seems like two different endings, as if it’s left for the viewer to decide which one works best(?). You can hear Kara and I discussing this ending confusion in our no spoilers review below.

This is a very odd way to end a film. Neither of us could figure out which ending was the de facto ending. If you know which ending is right, save that for our critique post where we have spoilers and we’ll discuss in more depth.

The acting is good, although I was a bit saddened to see a senior citizen Wesley Snipes puffing on a Sherlock Holmes pipe. He plays James’ dad, who is roughing it out in the woods, somewhat estranged from his family. There is yet another plot thread.

Cinematography, sounds, action are all average. I think the script and direction — cloudy as it seems at times — is the biggest issue keeping this from being just a mostly entertaining film. Kara felt it was three stars, I was thinking more like 2.5, but we’ll leave it at 3 stars with an asterisk for recommendation. We would suggest waiting for this to appear on streaming vs. seeing it in the theaters.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️