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Player Hating: A Love Story

In Brooklyn's Crown Heights projects, death is everywhere, a fact addressed with compassion if not quite analytical depth in Player Hating: A Love Story. Maggie Hadleigh-West's documentary examines the neighborhood through the emerging career of Jasun Wardlaw, a/k/a Half-a-Mill, a 26-year-old hip-hop artist who gave Hadleigh-West up-close-and-personal access in the months leading to his debut album's release. With intimate handheld cinematography and a rough naturalism that matches her story's tough urban environs, the director charts the ups and downs of Half-a-Mill and a few of his many crew members, all of whom boast loyalty to their violent neighborhood and a cynically matter-of-fact perspective on committing brutal crimes to feed and protect their families and themselves. Although Hadleigh-West occasionally asks pointed questions, her film rarely challenges its subjects' opinions, and its Rest in Peace text cards and slow-motion interludes further an overarching uncritical attitude toward Half-a-Mill and company's get-rich-or-die-trying ethos. Nonetheless, a young boy's nonchalant attitude toward having a friend stick a loaded gun in his mouth as well as a man's numerous knife scars courtesy of his beloved wife definitely cut through the clichés about "thug life" to capture how violence is an integral, corrosive part of inner-city life.

 
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