Enter The Strap Set, a gun running operation out of the Big Apple that asks no questions and takes no prisoners. After a violent business dispute with a rival outfit lands Strap Set member Zho (Tracey Dukes) in prison, the remaining members move the operation to Los Angeles. Upon Zho’s return, things have changed considerably. Khalil (Maurice Whitfield) is in the process of completing a deal with Luc (Kevin Lukata) for a cache of prototype high-tech firearms. Meanwhile, Ryhis (Amin Joseph) and Grimm (Sean Riggs) welcome Zho home after he emerges from the belly of the beast. The warm reception is short lived, as Zho is expected to immediately resume his role within the set.
At long last, it is finally here. After a few tantalizing trailers and “exclusive clips,” the general public finally gets to see a full episode of R.L. Scott’s crime related web series Touye Pwen. Complete with a broad cast of characters and plot lines that will surely mill and seethe around each other until reaching a number of resolutions, Touye Pwen isn’t for those with short attention spans. All of the labyrinthine plotting and colorful characterization will be in vein, however, if the show isn’t compelling. Does it ultimately deliver the goods?
|Khalil reminds Luc of the state of things.|
R.L. Scott allows us to get up close and personal with these characters, and not just in terms of expository dialogue. There is a ton of that for sure, but the intimacy is also suggested by the camera placement. The shots are mostly tight close-ups, often with only one character’s face occupying the screen at a time. The second exchange, between three different characters, takes place inside of car. That setting demands that the camera be brought as close as possible. The first exchange plays an intriguing little game with the audience by not showing much of the merchandise that Luc is purchasing. There are some brief glimpses of him brandishing what looks like a Beretta 9mm, but nothing more. I was reminded of the glowing contents of the trunk in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
Of all the characters, the one who makes the biggest impression is the dapper yet frightening Khalil. While all of the other characters have a street corner swagger, Khalil seems more confident and mysterious. He openly presents himself as a member of a secret society as opposed to a gang banger who flamboyantly flaunts his colors. In a very nice and subtle touch, the actors provide their characters with New York accents that aren’t too exaggerated. Too often, Hollywood uses the same generic dialect for its black characters regardless of what region they supposedly hail from. R.L. Scott and his associates know better.
Touye Pwen hits the ground running with its inaugural episode. As a friend of mine said, those who haven’t the patience for The Wire should give this a try. That’s not to say that R.L. Scott’s web series is identical to the HBO’s classic crime show. Touye Pwen speaks its own language and walks its own walk. Its tone feels a bit more epic and mythic. I haven’t the foggiest as to what the Strap Set is up to, but I’m sure that bodies will be strewn about the street when it’s all over. Although I don’t know much at all about Zho yet, I already fear for his safety amongst his fellow crew members. R.L. Scott was sure able to cram one hell of a lot into less than seven minutes.