April 26, 2008
With all the talk about immigration and multiculturalism in the United States these days, you'd think someone would have the wisdom to look outwards for a minute and examine how the issue is affecting so many other countries in the same way. Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, and yes, even Mexico (from Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America) are struggling with immigration, yet everyone thinks it's just our problem. Anyway, Kicks takes a multifaceted look at the the current situation in The Netherlands, where Moroccan immigrants have recently settled in large numbers. While Crash was both lauded and lamented after its release a few years ago, someone would have a hard time convincing me that it wasn't at least an important conversation starter (even if the conversation died too soon). Dutch writer/director Albert Ter Heerdt apparently felt the same way, and Kicks is made in such a similar style that he's practically begging for a comparison. Unfortunately, his version fails. It's an entertaining and very well-acted film, but the sheer number of characters (I counted 12 "main characters") in Kicks prevents us from getting a firm hold on the reality of the Dutch situation. Besides that, they're broad stereotypes: the racist cop, the depressed/drug addicted mother, the teen extremist, the naive socialite, etc. Ter Heerdt could have made an amazing film focused on just one of them (I thought the cop, the mother, the rude homeless man and the boxer all had potential), but he instead gives us 10 minutes with each. It's filmmaking in the style of speed dating, and everybody goes home alone. Regardless, Kicks still provides moments of real comedy and drama, and I imagine Dutch citizens would view it differently, for better or for worse. I appreciated the ambition and the acting, but ultimately found it a tame attempt at social commentary, and one that would have worked better as a television series.