I got a chance to see a screening of this at Sundance.
This movie sucks you in, seduces you, entrances you, then whacks you over the head with a baseball bat.
It starts off fairly annoying... bunch of pimply-faced white wanna-be's spouting rapid fire ghetto speak with rap music blaring in the background. Eminem would be proud. I thought to myself, "oh no, here we go to one dimensional city...".
But after a while these characters became very likable. These are REAL characters, living a really dangerous life style. The effect is similar in Goodfellas... they're so bad, so annoying, but fascinating, and free in ways ordinary people aren't. They do what they want, when they want and give you a bloody nose if you try and stop them.
There's a mood, an energy, a style that Cassavettes was able to capture and portray that made this film so far removed from any clichéd studio product geared toward teenyboppers. The film feels honest and genuine, and that's the difference.
At a certain point, after all the partying, and boozing and drugging, the film takes a turn for the worse and climaxes into a gut wrenching, horrible tragedy that left me (and the audience) stunned.
Overall it's an extremely well crafted film, definitely worth seeing.
And I almost forgot to mention the biggest surprise of all... Justin Timberlake. Forget what you know, forget N'SYNC, this guy is a real actor. I almost feel strange saying this, but it's true... He was stunning, almost stole the movie; crackled whenever he was on screen. He has all the right ingredients for a stellar acting career; charisma, screen presence, that separates him from the pretty faced phonies clogging the movie screens. Every moment he was on screen he was doing something that worked, and he makes it look easy, the most important trait a great actor has. I'll definitely be watching his acting career very closely from now on.