Artful indie crime epic

Writer/director John Marco Lopez’ “Paradise City” is an ambitious, epic crime drama that punches way above its indie label.

A dramatic political crime thriller, “Paradise City” centers on a young police officer named Jimmy (Kareem Saviñon), who goes undercover to investigate an ex-con named Brother Nazim (impressive debut performance by Hassan Bradley). Nazim is a converted Muslim who runs a growing mosque in New York City. Jimmy’s superior is Chief Frank Murdoch (rapper Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones), an embittered officer in charge of an anti-terrorism unit. Murdoch will stop at nothing, even entrapment, to nail Nazim.

While Jimmy gets deeper into Nazim’s inner circle, he meets Alistair (Chris Petrovski), a charismatic drug addict. A rich kid, who took the streets when his mother died, Alistair roams freely with his beloved dog, looking for his next fix. But when his billionaire father dies, Alistair’s scheming sister, Bianca (Laura Kamin), must deal with her brother to unify the financial empire.

According to Lopez, he “drew inspiration from Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities” and wanted to reinterpret that classical narrative for the modern age.” And in crafting his unique story, he chose to present the film in an expressionist style. The lovely anamorphic images flow exceptionally well. Director of photography Chris Raymond shot the movie on the Alexa Mini camera fitted with the 30-72 mm and 56-152 mm Angenuiex lightweight anamorphic zoom lenses. He and Lopez fully committed to the rich black & white requirements. It’s a beautiful picture, especially given its low budget origins.

Read the rest of Jonathan’s review online and in print in the Times-Herald: