Film Review: Dark Streets

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An unwieldy combination of film noir and film musical, "Dark Streets" doesn't manage to be effective on either level. This music-infused drama set in the 1930s is all too redolent of its stage origins and -- despite a musical score featuring numbers sung by the likes of Etta James, Natalie Cole, Dr. John, Aaron Neville, BB King and other soul/R&B veterans -- has little going for it other than its undeniably atmospheric visuals.

Wallace King's convoluted and often laughably over-the-top screenplay (based on a stage musical written by Glenn M. Stewart, who produced) is set largely in a New York nightclub owned by Chazz Davenport (Gabriel Mann), who finds himself torn between the affections of rival singers Crystal (Bijou Phillips) and the mysterious new chanteuse Madelaine (Izabella Miko).

Desperate to keep his club out of the hands of a rapacious loan shark, Chazz finds himself embroiled in a string of mysterious murders even while a series of citywide blackouts further threatens his fortunes.

Other characters who figure in the loose plotline include a shifty policeman (Elias Koteas) with strange sartorial habits and the club's menacing, "Cabaret"-style MC (Toledo), who also provides the pungent voice-over narration.

Although director Rachel Samuels ("The Suicide Club") manages to provide an impressive stylistic sheen while working with an obviously limited budget, "Streets" is too derivative and lacking in wit to compensate for its narrative deficiencies, wooden performances and overall pretentiousness. Even its well-staged musical numbers are diminished by their sheer accumulation.
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