Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Web Series Review: ‘Touye Pwen’ Episode 8 – “Drug of Choice”

Grimm (Sean Riggs) pays a visit to a business associate.   The associate provides him with the requested pharmaceutical extractions before pulling his coat to a powerful new product. Meanwhile, Zho (Tracey Dukes) and Leena (Jasmine Hester) enjoy some leisure time together, during which they discuss Zho’s stint behind bars.  For him, the sweet smell of freedom offers proves to be an intoxicant more powerful than any drug.    

“Drug of Choice,” the eighth episode of Touye Pwen, focuses on the things that its characters do to escape from the stresses of daily life.  These activities range from sexual urges to chemical dependency.  On the other hand, the rather mundane activities that offer one respite from the daily grind are also addressed.   There is a very nice establishing shot at the very beginning, just as the title of the episode appears onscreen.   It’s a slow pan from a block in a residential nieghborhood.  The hilly terrain resembles San Francisco or some other part of the Bay Area.  R.L. Scott always does a solid job of setting the scene before the drama starts, but I think this one is especially smooth in how it’s laid out.

Grimm, who up until this point came off as something of a heartless automaton when set into motion, is revealed to have his own needs and addictions.  He pays a visit to his dealer to cop some product.  This is the first time that any chinks show in Grimm’s armor in regards to his discipline.  Despite his “Ruff Ryder” exterior, the character has always exuded a sense of conduct.  It’s not wise for a soldier to partake in vice, even on his down time.

The scene is funny in that it reminds me of two similar ones from a couple of classic crime films.  The first is Goodfellas.  Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) delivers a paper bag full of throw away guns to the home of Jimmy Conway(Robert De Niro), who is still grieving over Tommy Devito’s (Joe Pesci) death.  Jimmy angrily dismisses Henry after refusing to buy the guns.  The second scene is from Menace II Society.  Pernell (Glenn Plummer) treats a white customer like a court jester when said customer appears on his doorstep with a photo of a late model vehicle he’d like stolen.  None of the scenes have anything in common save for the tension between customer and dealer/supplier.  

The second scene, between Zho and Leena, is a bit more leisurely and much less tense.  They both enjoy a sunny day outside as they talk about Zho’s time behind bars.  This scene shows Zho at his most authentic.  I spent a short bit of time as a New York state corrections officer.  Zho has the swagger and mannerisms of an inmate, especially one from New York.  His dialogue rings true to their experience, especially the bit about how the simple pleasures of freedom are the ones that convicts miss the most.  Again, he is shown with scraggly facial hair (though one can see the faint evidence of a lined up beard).  This guy is stressed, and his woman can see it.

For the first time, Leena shows what appears to be genuine concern for someone else.  She’s less than impressed with Zho’s loyalty to his “family” and vocalizes her disapproval.  At this point it must be said that Jasmine Hester is a wonderful choice for the role of Leena.  Aside from her convincing and focused performance, she is very pleasant to look at.  Not in the typical “eye candy” sort of way, either.  She’s a genuine beauty who doesn’t have to be hypersexual to draw ones attention to her.  That is an important piece of the puzzle, because it makes Zho’s attraction to her both evident and believable.       

R.L. Scott slowed down the pace considerably on “Drug of Choice.”  The forward momentum has eased up a bit, but the interest is still there.  This week’s chapter is about character development.  Just like any other job, thug life has its own stressors and annoyances.  Zho’s method of escape is a bit more relatable and sensible than Grimm’s.  I still fear that Zho is headed for a fall of epic proportions, but I continue to root for him anyway.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Grimm ended up being the one ordered to take Zho out if the time ever came.  As Henry Hill said in Goodfellas, your killers always come to as your friends, and usually when you are most in need of their help.

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