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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
Asphalt City
| Tuesday, 04.02.2024, 10:59 PM |   (44 views)

"You can't save everyone."

That's the most important lesson that rookie FDNY paramedic Ollie Cross (Tye Sheridan) needs to learn from his veteran partner Gene Rutkovsky (Sean Penn) in the dark and edgy new film, Asphalt City.

The pressure of knowing you're the only thing that might be keeping a victim from turning into a fatality haunts the duo as they drive the overnight shift on the mean streets of East New York. 

Gunshot victims, heart attacks, premature births, dog bites, gang violence, and schizophrenics are just a sample of the people who we briefly meet and are just as quickly dismissed and disguarded in Director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire's new film.  Like the EMT crew, we're never given time to care about these people, especially those who may be one short push from the grave.

And that's the point that Rutkovsky continually tries to impress on his new partner.  Do what you can, in the time that you have, and move on.  Don't remember their faces.  Don't remember their families.  Because to carry that with you will drive you insane.  Above all, don't feel responsible because you didn't put them on the ground with a fatal gunshot wound in their femoral artery.

Unfortunately, as the movie unfolds, "Rut" has a change in his personal circumstances and takes one case too much to heart.   Meanwhile, Cross is struggling to keep his head above water.  Between the low pay, his horrible living situation, and the lack of friends or family, Cross feel he is continually drowning in unending tragedies.  He has zero confidence in his ability to save anything - not a gunshot victim, not even a dog.

One has to wonder, are the people who seek these jobs craving the absolute psychosis that comes with it, or are they made psychotic by the stream of crazy? 

Cross does have a goal: to pass the MCAT and leave this dark, depressing world behind for the more regulated system of a hospital.  But it's obvious that he's learning far more with his on-the-job training than he'll learn in any study guide. 

Mike Tyson pops up as Cross and Rut's superior officer.  Michael C. Pitt is cast as the EMT who's chiefly entertained by picking on the new guy.   Every one of the EMT's seems to be walking PTSD victims. 

Gritty.  There's no better word for Asphalt City. It's a film as gritty as the city it portrays.  You'll be exhausted, but go for the rush. 

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor / Movie Reviewer for In and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida.  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for NBC and CBS News affiliates.  She also edits national promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the #1 nationally syndicated news & information program.  For 30+ years she has covered the Florida Film Festival & the World Peace Film Festival, and has additional award-winning experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events with MTV Networks 

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