Expertly paced and gorgeous to behold, Sam de Jong’s Dutch-language directorial debut sets a stylish coming-of-age story in a bleak Amsterdam housing project.
Ayoub, the Moroccan son of a notorious local junkie, is pretty sure that becoming a man must involve wielding power — ideally in the form of a purple Lamborghini Diablo he’s seen around the neighborhood. He’s equally certain he must keep his half-sister away from the switchblade-toting, slur-dropping local ruffians, one of whom happens to be his best friend’s older brother. And just when he’s stirred by the allure of a girl, he finds she rides with that tougher crowd.
Ayoub tries to remake himself, but soon joins up with Kalpa — the coke-sniffing king of the local underworld, and the owner of that purple Lambo — for the kind of adventure not everyone walks away from.
For all its brandishing of sex, drugs, violence, and xenophobia as the trappings of a complex European youth, the film resolves too neatly and predictably to say anything radical or profound. A soundtrack of throbbing Dutch chillwave, goofy pop, and unironic Andrea Bocelli underscores every feeling the filmmaker tries to evoke.
But this eagerness to explain, whether through music or dialogue or sometimes heavy-handed symbolism, makes Prince feel a bit laborious at times. Still, Prince gets by, mostly, on look, momentum, and an underlying sweetness that’s unexpected from a Vice-presented flick. Like a purple Lamborghini — or an adolescent boy’s first, er, encounter — the film is too fast but almost unquestionably fun.
Written and directed by Sam de Jong
Opens August 14, AMC Empire 25
Available on demand