All good things must come to an end and for Galatea Films, the end was ugly. We’ll have a full discussion on the final Galatea Films production Wednesday but for now I get to discuss the film that brought an end to the classic Galatea crew. We Built This City was in release long after all involved had parted ways and it’s not hard to see why watching it.
Norman Jones, this time serving as both writer and director, and Will Underwood reteamed with Ragsdale for the film, a basic battle of the bands plot with local music throughout. The film was designed as an entry into the Breakin’ market and there was little reason for any turmoil. Ragsdale’s notorious drug problems got the better of him and he wound up rewriting the film to have a bizarre anti-human trafficking message which caused Jones to quit the studio. Ragsdale’s abusive attitude towards Underwood caused the actor to outright quit acting and enter the ministry. Ragsdale wound up editing the film himself, a decision that inspired him to write and direct his own movie. A legendary decision.
None of this would matter if the film was good, but….
The film centers around Jake Illinois (Underwood), a 30 year old realizing he needs to make something of himself and get out of his librarian job. Jake winds up joining a local band, Firebrand, whose lead singer Roxie (Penelope Zane, Ragsdale’s mistress) initially hates him but ultimately she comes around. They wind up in a battle of the bands against Warlove, a band led by Snake Oliver (Eric Torrance). Warlove starts out as a standard jock band but Ragsdale felt the stakes could be higher so he ordered Jones to shoot scenes revealing Warlove was trafficking illegals into the country, an issue Ragsdale cared staunchly about. Once he decided on this plot, it was significantly amplified to roughly 1/3 of the movie.
What results is a generic movie about finding yourself next to an unnervingly hard edged drama about the exploitation of illegal immigrants. It’s remarkably sensitive in its treatment, not shocking given Ragsdale’s legendary respect for all except middle easterners, But the film winds up being wildly imbalanced. The band scenes aren’t interesting enough to be remembered while the human trafficking is really quite interesting. Jones always had a good eye and, as he spoke fluent Spanish, got good performances out of his Mexican cast.
This suffers from the same flaw many of the Galatea Films in that it’s weird but more of an object. The film would’ve benefitted strongly from a good score but the music is almost distressingly bland. None of it has the pop of Friends from Miami Connection for example.
There’s also a clear sense of the turmoil on set. Underwood is good here but he’s clearly tired. There’s a high level of tension even in fun scenes. Really the only actor who seems relaxed is the lovely miss Zane. The editing is astonishing too. So sloppy.
I’d love to recommend this film. Ragsdale was onto something but this is too mixed to get behind.