Slam (1998) from Tuna

Slam (1998) is an Indie, co-authored by the principal cast. 
It is set in the Washington DC inner city. Saul Williams plays Ray Joshua, small time marijuana dealer and talented "slammer." (Slamming is a half rap half poetry performance art). When his best friend is shot shortly after handing him half a lid, he runs, and is arrested and held on possession. He is told that he has three choices: he can cop a plea and get two years, take his chances in court and probably get 10 years, or rat out his friends and get off. None of the three appeal to him. 


Sonja Sohn shows glimpses of breasts during the one sex scene, and pokes through a white t-shirt for over half the film.
During a very eventful few days in jail, he meets an English teacher named Lauren Bell who works with prisoners (Sonja Sohn), is nearly killed by rival gangs, and discovers that there is another way to deal with the violence, poverty and unrest around him with his art, and that true freedom is something you have inside you, not something under the control of others.

A fellow prisoner arranges bail for him, and he convinces his shot friend, who survived, that retaliation for the shooting is not the answer, and
actually plays into the establishments hands. He then finds and beds Sonja. Sonja is very hot in the sex scene, mainly do to facial expression. The rest of the film concerns Ray's relationship with Sonja, and how he struggles to face his upcoming court date. Much of the cast was amateur, and included real poets, but both Sonja and Williams were very strong. The "Slamming" was powerful and expressive, and the camera work was top notch, using a perfect mix of static shots and hand held, and included many more artistic shots than you would expect in a film about the inner city.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed, 1.85

  • Full-length director and actor commentary

  • trailer, music video 

The film won numerous awards including Sundance and Cannes. Made for $1m, it grossed just under that in theatrical release.  She has been getting steady work since her appearance in this film. I

It was a very pleasant surprise visually, the performances were far better than I expected, and they managed to present a good picture of ghetto life and the prison experience without being too depressing.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Maltin 3.5, Apollo 88/100

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.2, Apollo users a very impressive 90/100. 
  • With their dollars ... it was made for a million, grossed a million in limited distribution
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B. It is especially popular with younger voters at IMDb.

Return to the Movie House home page