Hairkutt Movie Review

Drug abuse is rarely seen from the viewpoint of the actual addict. Even in cases where the narrative tries to sympathize and humanize the junkie, there is always a smugly judgmental approach to the topic. In our jaded, "Just Say No" mindset, people hindered by their need for dope deserve ridicule, not rehabilitation. Even worse, supposed friends end up hypocritical arbiters, using their own sense of right and wrong to dictate the ethics of those afflicted. Perhaps this is why Curtis Elliot and Ben Scholle's remarkable documentary Hairkutt feels so fresh. Instead of looking down at its suffering subject, it brings real insight into the problem of kicking one's habit.

For Brynat "Hairkutt" Johnson, life in his hometown of St. Louis has been incredibly hard. For nearly 15 years, he's been on and off of heroin, snorting sometimes more than $200 of dope a day. He wants to get clean, but can't find the motivation to do so. Then when he learns that the mother of his eldest daughter has died, he decides to straighten up. Best friends Elliot, Maurice "Reese" Bradley, and Anthony "Lark" Dorsey come up with a plan: they will rent a cabin in Tennessee, take Hairkutt to the remote locale, fix up the place with plastic tarp, and then videotape him as he goes cold turkey. The reason for the camera is simple -- maybe if he sees the torment he goes through during the week-long ordeal, he'll never touch drugs again.

If a film was judged solely on nobility of intentions and/or power in the presentation, Hairkutt would be an undeniable masterpiece. The very idea that three buddies would step up and aid another in one of the most difficult situations anyone could face draws us in, and the cinema vérité style keeps us glued to the unfolding story. We learn that Hairkutt is not some kind of irredeemable reprobate. Instead, he's a soft-spoken man with a kind heart and a body broken by opiates. In their all or nothing approach, Elliot and Scholle cover everything -- before they leave for Tennessee, we witness Hairkutt snorting his last fix. He does so in a matter of fact, "this is my life" kind of manner that suggests seven days dry will hardly be enough. Like breathing, or sleeping, heroin is a part of Hairkutt.

This becomes abundantly clear during the movie's second act. As part of this painful-to-watch footage, withdrawal is shown in its true, non-sensationalized reality. Hairkutt, constantly vomiting and unable to hold down any kind of nourishment, pleads with his pals. He begs to be put out of his misery, his slight frame rejecting every attempt to purge the poison from it. It's hard to determine what's worse: the physical agony or the overriding feeling of loneliness. No matter how much support Elliot, Bradley, and Dorsey provide, no matter how many home remedies or Internet suggestions they follow, Hairkutt is stuck doing this alone, and he knows it.

There are a lot of positive messages that can be taken from this material, the most obvious being that drugs will destroy you. But Hairkutt delivers the most devastating missive when he explains the single biggest barrier to breaking his addiction. "The heroin's in here," he says, pointing to his head. "It may be gone from here (finger to chest), but it's still solid in here." It's a devastating statement, one that foreshadows the ultimate result of everyone's efforts. Yet Hairkutt is far from hopeless. Instead, it paints an authentic picture of life as a drug addict. And in a realm where politics purposely cloud the issue, a little stark reality is a welcome relief.

Aka HairKuTT.

Cast & Crew

Director : Curtis Elliot, Ben Scholle

Producer : Curtis Elliot, Ben Scholle

Starring : Bryant Johnson, Curtis Elliot, Maurice Bradley, Anthony Dorsey

Comments

Hairkutt Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 2008

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