Somewhere in the City

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Ramin Niami

REVIEWED: 12-14-98

Based on Maxim Gorky's play The Lower Depths and writer/director Ramin Niami's own experience of living in the Big Apple, Somewhere in the City plays for dark comedy as it follows the depraved, intertwined travails of residents in a Lower East Side tenement building. The offbeat cast of characters includes a loquacious therapist looking for Mr. Right (Sandra Bernhard looking strained against her persona), a subdued Chinese immigrant (Bai Ling) trying to arrange a fixed marriage in order to obtain a green card, a sexy maid (Italian bombshell Ornella Muti) who for some reason services the building's fat slob of a superintendent daily, the dapper thief (Robert John Burke) who botches every job, and a crew of revolutionaries in the basement searching for a cause.

Niami's low-budget romp offers a few peaks of smart witted humor -- be it the kidnapping of former mayor Ed Koch or Ling's English barrier with her suitors -- but for the most part it's a series of loosely connected vignettes that lack character development and tempo. The film is simply a goofy house of games; as a result Somewhere in the City goes nowhere.

--Tom Meek

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