Black Ruby (2019)

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Two musicians find themselves caught up with the possibilities of love and greed in this indie drama that may have notoriety for how it was shot, but that doesn’t stop the excellent performances of its cast.

Louis and Jules are two aspiring jazz musicians who are attempting to live the dream on the streets of Chicago. However, the dreams have not come without its struggles. Jules, the son of a prominent musician, only thrives to use his last name as a way to get in the door. However, he is not very talented, and while being engaged to longtime girlfriend Christiana, he can’t help having a wandering eye. As for Louis, he is very talented, but his struggle involves an addiction to medications.

Things are about to go from struggle to chaos when Ruby, an escort enters their lives. Jules invites Ruby to stay at his apartment when Christiana is away. However, upon meeting her, Louis finds himself falling in love with her, with an opportunity to attempt to help her. The bond of friendship between Jules and Louis slowly begins to unravel when to make some extra money, Jules has Louis enter backyards fights for a fellow hustler, Quazy. Will the friends be able to get their dream of music back in gear or will their longtime friendship come to an end?

Directed by the interestingly named “La Raza”, this indie drama is getting notoriety for being the first feature film to be shot using an iPhone 7. What is even more astounding is that the cinematography looks fantastic for it being shot on an iPhone 7. Normally, when a film is shot using a phone, the quality tends to be shoddy and can take away from the performances or in the case of viral films, the film, looks meh. However, in the case of this film, the quality is great, but the performances help even drive the film further in a positive manner.

This film should be the one that has a face to look out for and it is lead actor Zachary Laoutides, who plays the talented yet troubled Louis Katz. It is clear from his performance that Laoutides must have studied the likes of young Marlon Brando, James Dean, and the greats during their youthful days because he gives a performance that should earn him some recognition. Louis is the type of character whose flaws make him a target to be manipulated and with him, it is about the music and finding himself getting into backyard fights for money. Level-headed? Not so much, but a tortured soul that hopes to find some sort of redemption when it comes to his love for the titular Ruby.

Krystal E. Heredia brings something very interesting to the role of escort Ruby, the woman who triggers the breaking of the friendship between the two musicians. Ruby doesn’t bring much emotionally, but in a way, it can be a good thing because it brings a sense of mystery to the role. Questions can be asked such as, why is she an escort? Does she really want to continue doing this? Can she find a way out if she really wanted to? It seems like the answer could be that she was forced into a situation she feels she can’t escape from. Even though Louis and Jules attempt to help her to some degree, she still feels like perhaps she can’t let it go.

The one character not to feel sorry about is Louis’ buddy Jules, played by Joseph Mennella. This is the type of person who could be a typical antagonist for a film. He’s lazy. He spends his time womanizing and not having a care in the world. He thinks he will get by on name recognition alone when it comes to music. He’s not even that great and manipulates Louis on several occasions, from coming up with new music to having them hustle by fighting for peanuts in backyards. The interesting factor is that there is a narrator for the film, and it is another secondary character in the form of Quazy, played by Laron Hardrick. Perhaps the reason to use Quazy as the narrator is to get the point of view from a character who is not one of the main three as a means to bring an unbiased view of the story.

Black Ruby is a well-shot, well-performed indie drama that raises some questions about our titular character and you have to appreciate the performances of its cast, notably Zachary Laoutides, who can be described after seeing this film as the “21st-century Brando”.

WFG RATING: A-

Random Media presents an Ave Fenix Pictures production. Director: La Raza. Producers: Zachary Laoutides and Dan Pasare. Writer: Zachary Laoutides. Cinematography: Monica E. Leon. Editing: La Raza.

Cast: Zachary Laoutides, Joseph Mennella, Krystal E. Heredia, Laron Hardrick, Ric Morgan, Carmen Santiago Keenon, Nick Carmen, Leon Alfredo, Monica E. Leon.

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