Jesse (Harrison) narrates “Gully” with a crushed voiceover that constantly pulls out any attempt at realism. (Why Jesse is telling a story that he only knows parts of is a question probably never asked by writer Marcus J. Guillory, but that’s just a sign of a storyline that doesn’t quite hold together. ) Jesse tells his story of trauma and abuse. , as well as the way he crosses paths with those of his two friends Calvin (Latimore) and Nicky (Plummer). The three young men come from a broken and violent past, and recent revelations push them into a wave of violence, almost as if Guillory and Elderkin are doing a modern variation on “A Clockwork Orange”, asking what happens when young people men who have been brought up in brutal worlds, end up unleashing this repressed brutality on everyone around them.
At first, “Gully” almost seems to point the finger at video game culture. As the guys go on their rampage, Elderkin brings up video game footage from something like “Grand Theft Auto V”, showing on screen how many pills the guys just took and how they’ve now reached. a new “rank”. Like so many elements in “Gully”, this concept is thematically underdeveloped and then hardly used. “Gully” becomes a story of acts of violence linked to chance. The guys follow a couple after a road rage incident and terrorize them into their house. They rob tourists. They take revenge on someone who abused Jesse. None of this adds up to much. None of this has any weight. Is this the goal? Do these lives of violence continue to breed violence? Too much “Gully” is either blurry or overwritten. It’s a film that emphasizes its themes – especially through a “homeless wise man” played by Howard – or that is unable to understand what he is trying to say at all.
Unfortunately, “Gully” is also visually light, which is particularly disappointing given the background of Elderkin’s music video. He has been one of the form’s most impressive performers over the past decade, at the helm “Grenade“By Bruno Mars,”Pyramids“by Frank Ocean,”All of me“by John Legend,”Two weeks“by FKA Brindilles,”DNABy Kendrick Lamar, and many more, including music videos from SZA, Travis Scott (who helped produce and appeared briefly on “Gully”), Vince Staples and The Weeknd. Typically working with these artists more than once, his videos have the kind of vision that merges art forms, translating and shaping music into a different craft. None of that confidence comes through in “Gully,” which one can only assume was chopped up in post as it lacks the fluidity and craftsmanship of Elderkin’s work. Perhaps this is proof that what works in a short form doesn’t always work for a long time, but the track records of the great music video directors who have made the leap to feature films are vast and I still hope Elderkin will be able to make this jump.