Back around the theatrical release of Black Snake Moan, I recall Craig Brewer talking up a country music movie which would complete the loosely connected trilogy he began with Hustle & Flow. I’m thinking that Gang Leader for a Day is not that movie.
Based on Sudhir Venkatesh’s non-fiction, first-person account of the inner workings of the Black Kings, an inner city Chicago crack dealing outfit, this sounds like the kind of film that could deglamorize the rather perilous “profession” – especially if they hammer home the hard statistics broken down by Venkatesh and Steven D. Leavitt in Freakonomics. Once kids see that the low-rung employees take home way less than the minimum wage (while running a one-in-four chance of getting offed), maybe they’ll think twice about finishing high school (or, at the very least, that Burger King application). More likely: they’ll ignore the risks and the shitty pay, and delude themselves into believing they could be the next Tony Montana. The world is yours.
The title of Venkatesh’s book refers to his honorary (and one-time) twenty-four-hour role as the shot-caller for the Black Kings. Since he’s currently a professor at Columbia University, I’m guessing he didn’t order any hits (that’s more Dartmouth’s style), but the fact that he spent seven years with these guys makes me wonder if he was at least a little complicit in furthering their neighborhood-wrecking operation. I do believe I’ll pick up the book and find out for myself.
Brewer is great with milieu and not-so-great with narrative, so I’m glad the screenplay is in the hands of former Sopranos writer, Michael Caleo; perhaps this will be the first Brewer film that isn’t completely anticlimactic. Paramount Vantage will produce and distribute, though it’s unclear as to when Gang Leader for a Day might begin production. I just hope they shoot on location in the Lake Park projects of Chicago.