The Gritty Gangster Action of Welcome to Warlock (Trinidad and Tobago)

Julien Neaves – Editor

If you ask the average cinephile in Trinidad and Tobago what is the country’s best movie OF ALL TIME (as Jules says in WhatCulture) you would hear the 1972 crime drama Bim (I have a link for my review below, but let’s not get distracted). But for the millennial generation the response may very well be action flick Welcome to Warlock: Land of the Lawless and not only because the marketing calls it TT’s “number one film.”
The movie was released in 2014 while I was studying in Jamaica (big up UWI Mona posse!) and when I returned I continued to hear it spoken about. It was originally available only via DVDs or via piracy (which is just evil given its tiny budget) but I found out it had been released on YouTube, and has racked up more than 700,000 views. That is impressive. Most impressive. And after finally checking out the film myself I can see why– it’s a pretty dang good movie. Here is my spoiler free review:

warlock 2
Aye girl. Yuh want ah gangster man or wha?

Welcome to Warlock, directed by Jeffrey Alleyne, tells the story of Machine (Raphael Joseph), a maxi taxi (private-owned, private-operated minibus) driver who has a falling out with his friend “Ratty” (Junior Mcintyre) over gambling card game “wappie” and it escalates into a full-scale gang war in their ghetto community. Alleyne aka “dgeneral” shot the film guerilla style with a handycam and tripod which gives the movie a gritty, almost documentary feel. The amateur cast give raw, profanity-laden, authentic performances that at times feel a little too real. And the many brutal, bloody gunfights are impressively shot and choreographed, straddling the line between almost glorifying and condemning gang violence. This “land of the lawless” is one where the police are just far off sirens and the only officials you see are coroners picking up a body. The only justice is gang justice and this is the tool of both heroes and villains. This is more “slice of life” than deep contemplation of this country’s gangster culture.

The film, a masterful work given its minuscule team and micro-budget, is however not without its flaws. The fairly straightforward plot gets a bit muddled in the final act and also slows down for some truly unnecessary romantic subplots. And there is a dancehall scene that goes on FOR-EV-ER, and was clearly just there to add some sex appeal to the trailers together with a couple of random sex scenes. And speaking of trailers do avoid the trailer for this one as it gives away waaaaay too much. But prolonged gyrating scenes notwithstanding, when the film sticks to the main gangster plot it is bloody well done (pun very much intended) and delivers an immersive, harrowing, visceral ride. And one that I recommend unreservedly.

Rating: Welcome to Warlock gets 4.25/5 gunshots.

To check out the film yourself you can click here. All photos courtesy of Valleywood TNT.

And for my review of Bim you can click here

Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel but dreams of being Batman. Also loves creating board games and is an aspiring Caribbean sci-fi author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce.”


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