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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 04.30.14] drama



A couple of years ago writer/director Henry Barrial appeared on our radar when his low budget, big brains sci-fi thriller Pig made waves across the American and International festival circuits. For his follow-up, Barrial has taken on something completely different: a drama written by acclaimed writer/director Joseph B. Vasquez (of Hangin' With The Homeboys fame) which has been sitting for nearly 20 years.

The House that Jack Built stars E.J. Bonilla as the titular Jack, a charismatic young man who seems to have everything. He owns an apparently successful business, an apartment building in the Bronx that he's moved his entire family into and he has a beautiful fiancé. He's the family success story, the one who will do whatever is necessary to take care of the family even if that means some shady dealings he keeps from his mother. But Jack's life is far from idyllic. His parents are on the verge of divorce, his lesbian sister is about to come out to the family, his older brother doesn't deal well with stress, Jack's fiancé Lily wants nothing more than to get married and start a family and on top of it all, a turf war is brewing with a rival dealer who is infringing on Jack's territory.


The set-up sounds a little hokey but The House that Jack Built is far from the cliché the set-up suggests. Sure the characters are familiar and there's a feeling of well worn tropes but the story is impeccably balanced, resulting in a movie that doesn't feel at all like a rehash but rather a fresh new angle on "thug life." The movie does a great job of the family and relationship drama but when it comes right down to it, Jack is a dealer, a high level dealer with a crew, an area and a (rather large) family to look after. The fact that the story of his turf war is wrapped with his family's story is simply brilliant writing.

The House that Jack Built is remarkable for a number of reasons but perhaps most notably is that this 20 year old script feels as fresh and in touch with today's culture as it would have in the 90s and it's a testament to Vasquez's talent that this story is so timeless it plays as well today as the day it was written. It's also a little sad to note that things have changed so little in the last 20 years that for many, street life 20 years ago is the same as it is today.

The other remarkable aspect of The House that Jack Built is the cast led by Bonilla who so wonderfully embodies both the family man willing to do anything to protect those he loves and the ruthless business man. Bonilla is impressive throughout but he really earns his stripes with a key scene near the end of the movie when he realizes that despite his talents as a negotiator, business and family man, he simply can't do anything to help his brother. It's a heart breaking moment and only one in a movie full of great moments and performances.

Pig certainly suggested that Henry Barrial was a filmmaker to watch but The House that Jack Built is a clear indication that Barrial doesn't simply have a knack for humanizing complicated stories but for telling them beautifully.

Occasionally violent, sometimes funny and full of heart, The House that Jack Built is not to be missed.

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Captharlock99 (6 years ago) Reply

No need to go to see this movie...just watch the news every night...same thing happening...and you save some money.


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