'R Xmas (2001)
Cult favorite Abel Ferrara directed and co-wrote this story set in New York City in 1993, before Mayor Rudy Giuliani's much-publicized crusade against street crime put a dent in semi-public drug dealing in the city. It's a few days before Christmas, and a Latin American couple living on the city's Upper East Side (Lillo Brancato Jr. and Drea de Matteo) are watching their daughter (Lisa Valens) perform in her school's holiday pageant. Afterward, the couple drop the child off with a babysitter and set out to run some errands. They have two items on their agenda: get their daughter the doll she's been asking for (a nearly impossible task, since the toy has become the must-have item of the season), then head to their work space uptown, where they prepare and package heroin for street distribution. While the wife has her qualms about the ethics of drug dealing, both she and her husband know there's plenty of money to be made in heroin -- more than most Hispanic immigrants could make working legitimate jobs in New York -- and the business has been highly lucrative for them. The couple discovers one of their lower-level dealers may be talking to the police, but they soon have a bigger problem to deal with when the husband is lured to the Bronx by a fence who can get him the toy he's been looking for. The husband finds he's been lured into a trap, and a kidnapper (Ice-T) gives the wife less than a half hour to collect and pay a huge ransom, or her husband will be killed. As in Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, the audience never learns the names of most of the major characters in 'R Xmas; also like Bad Lieutenant (as well as King of New York and The New Rose Hotel), Ferrara invited pioneering gangster rapper Schooly-D to contribute to the film's score. … More
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Critic Reviews for 'R Xmas
Ferrara's best film in years.
Once Ice-T sticks his mug in the window of the couple's BMW and begins haranguing the wife in bad stage dialogue, all credibility flies out the window.
R Xmas offers a poetic and profane ambiguity that's vintage Ferrara.
Admirers of director Abel Ferrara may be relieved that his latest feature, R Xmas, marks a modest if encouraging return to form.
What could have been right at home as a nifty plot line in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic fails to arrive at any satisfying destination.
De Matteo ... boasts enough intelligence, attitude and ferocity to ignite even the most mundane of moments.
Can't quite deliver the goods, but it still provides a few highs along the way.
Highlighted by a gritty style and an excellent cast, it's better than one might expect when you look at the list of movies starring Ice-T in a major role.
The heart of the film is the drop dead sexy Drea De Matteo who, as the mother and real head of the family, commands every scene.
The main characters are simply named The Husband, The Wife and The Kidnapper, emphasizing the disappointingly generic nature of the entire effort.
Imagine O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi relocated to the scuzzy underbelly of NYC's drug scene. Merry friggin' Christmas!
Ferrara directs the entire film with the kind of detachment that makes any given frame look like a family's custom-made Christmas card.
It may be about drug dealers, kidnapping, and unsavory folks, but the tone and pacing are shockingly intimate.
Audience Reviews for 'R Xmas
Good Ferrara film, and the first film to kick off my Xmas. The touching story of husband and wife drug dealers and the trials they encounter and lessons they learn over the holiday season. A story of family, love and charity...and sleazebags. Good performances, gritty atmosphere and typical (meaning great) Ferrara direction make this a worthy addition to the Ferrara "dirtbag cinema" catalogue.More
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