Rita La Punta (Marilia Péra) may hail from Brazil, but she has made New York City her home, specifically the Alphabet City region rife with social problems including violence and drugs - two that often come hand in hand. Still, with her gang of teenagers, picked so they would not be charged with murder should they be caught for killing for her, she may live in a basic housing block with not too many bells and whistles, but she is making a lot of income with her drugs business. She has a supplier from whom she buys, then puts the product directly onto the streets, but recently there has been a rumbling of discontent from another dealer in the area, this one Puerto Rican...
Curiously, while Mixed Blood was a movie that arrived late in director Paul Morrissey's filmography, now that his work made for Andy Warhol appears to have lost a lot of its appeal, the earlier, raw and untutored efforts at least, this little item has overtaken them to become possibly his highest profile film. Not that it was a million miles away from his down and dirty Warhol slices of lowlife portraits, but they did not have frequent bursts of extremely bloody action, just the thing to raise the interest levels in an audience. Indeed, for many of those younger fans, this passed for a fairly solid comedy, as he included elements of deadpan humour that effectively tickled their funny bones.
Not everyone agreed, and found it laughable in another manner, the acting to be precise as Morrissey had brought in amateurs to fill out his cast, playing the young gang members with little skill but to be generous, a degree of raw power that sold the more ludicrous aspects, assuming you could get past the wooden line readings in a variety of accents and uncertain emoting. For example, no death here is really mourned, everyone simply accepts it as part of life as if to show any remorse or pity for the deceased is a sign of weakness, so a sort of enforced acceptance of the state of their existence is demonstrated throughout - you would certainly not see anyone breaking down and crying in this.
For that reason, it's a difficult tone to contend with, simply thanks to the setting coming across as so authentic, yet the melodrama it contained was so hard to counter with the suspicion that Morrissey was over-egging the pudding when it came to portraying a set of characters where all of them are criminals: even the police are corrupt and on the take. Yet the violence was emphasised to such depths that far from appearing caricatured, in its bizarre fashion it grew to be the most believable part, with shootouts unfolding as the shooters have to fire off almost every bullet in their gun in the hope of getting a good aim, and when those slugs do hit they explode in a welter of blood. The fact these were mostly kids doing the shooting rendered such scenes with an uneasy resemblance to a game.
Yet it was a game they were all taking deadly seriously: losing face was far worse than losing your life. At the heart of it all was the director's intriguing casting of two actresses who were best known in film buff circles for two defining roles: Péra for her prostitute character in Héctor Babenco's not dissimilar kids in the slums effort Pixote, and in the main supporting female part, Linda Kerridge, the Australian who made her name as a Marilyn Monroe lookalike in the novelty slasher Fade to Black. Here they both proved they were genuinely interesting screen presences, Kerridge because of her laconic personality (her last line was really something) which means you cannot work out what is going on in her head, and Péra because she was the star of the show and seized every opportunity in the limelight with a compellingly offbeat performance. Maybe she was simply being Brazilian, but her eccentricity as Rita was not easily forgotten, while remaining a three-dimensional personality. Those two made this worth a look, simply because they were so singular in cinema. Music by Coati Mundi (under a pseudonym).