Present day St. Louis is the setting for Cronies, a debut feature, written directed and produced by the Spike Lee endorsed Michael. J. Larnell. Shot in black and white, appearing immediately lo-fi, taking place in the space of twenty-four hours, it immediately seems like homage to Kevin Smith’s Clerks or potentially an exercise in mimicking.
Cronies centres around three early twenty-year-old males, all newcomers, riding and getting high around St. Louis. Cronies begins as a documentary, with Larnell curious about an incident from eleven years ago and wanting to investigate it. It gives an insight into the main players that are Louis, Jack and Andrew, three young men in their early twenties who appear rather different bar their street vernacular. Louis an affable dad of four year old and wears distinctive thick black-rimmed glasses, he appears strikingly geekish but someone very comfortable in his own skin. Loud and proud Jack hides behind sunshades whilst brandishing some mean looking gold teeth, like Louis, black and from the hood. Andrew, a white jock pin up is Louis’s colleague who has a mutual bond for their love of getting high. Jack hijacks Louis and Andrew’s day of their plans to get high and going fishing. Riding in the back of Andrew’s convertible Jeep, Jack runs his mouth bullying Andrew into giving him his cigarettes. Andrew symbolically is the type of person Louis wants to aspire too whilst Jack is the past he is looking to move away from.
As the day folds out, there are minor incidents that include buying drugs, partying, Andrew having his car stolen and a dispute that has one of them have a gun in their hand with a decision they have to make they’re maybe not all that prepared for.
The plot is majorly thin with any real tension not appearing until the final third of the film. Finding itself in the Laugh category of the London Film Festival, it’s drastically thin of offering any real comical traits deriving from plot, dialogue or the acting. For a film striving for an air or verisimilitude, it seems illogical that Andrew would tolerate having Jack hijacking their day without Andrew becoming confrontational or attempting to ditch Jack. The warning signs come early on when the film goes from a documentary presentation to scripted film following the characters on their day without a sense of a documentary crew there, it feels so unnatural and uncalled for it asks the question why it was incorporated in the first place. It feels like a gamble from Larnell, to switch between ‘documentary’ to ‘script’ black and white to colour for flashback use and it all feels like a director very desperately trying to be original to make a name for himself, whereby a simple good script with performances to match would have done a lot more for him and all involved.