Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop: well worth hearing
Jake Weisman
3/15/2005 10:23:23 PM

Danny Hoch was born and raised in New York, and the rich multiculturalism and burgeoning Hip-Hop scene of his upbringing vividly color his concerns as a performer. He could have made his millions by now selling out his vitality, charm, faithful dialogue, and understanding of Hip-Hop to grubbing, small-minded Hollywood. What makes Hoch unique though, is that he has concerns as a performer and makes them the meat of his art. In Jails Hospitals & Hip-Hop [Kicked Down Productions], an adaptation of his one-man stage performance, Hoch gives a voice that resonates empathy to characters struggling with both society’s and their own, Us-and-Them mentality.

The film opens with Hoch’s performance of the poem/rap, Message to Bluntman, which peels the glamour from gangsta life’s commodities by showing the nature of those purveying and profiting from the image they’ve bought:

…But, I can take your culture, soup it up and sell it back to you. I can sell crack and smack to you if you let me I’m the president, the press and your paycheck. You sweat me!

Hoch’s character Flip could sure use the reality check. Flip (Or ‘Flip Dog’ when he’s on the M-I-C.) is a white kid in suburban Montana with all the affectations of, or at least Flip’s idea of, a thug rapper in the Ghetto. It’s Hoch’s most heavy-handed portrayal, but also one of his funniest. While Flip is in his room just dreaming it:

…Emcee Enuff is the real thing and a guest on The Late Show. In the past he’s had the innocence of the “Old School”, then filled his music with gratuitous violence, but is “on some epiphany type shit” for his 14th album, Where’s the Joy?

Back down to earth, there are Hoch’s nice guys. Among others is: Gabriel, whose speech is distorted from his mother’s cocaine use during his pregnancy, says goodbye to his speech therapist (The speech therapist is played by Lynn Schlansky Hoch, Danny’s mother and a speech therapist in real life.).

Victor tries to pick up a pretty girl in the waiting room of the hospital he comes to for physical therapy, and reveals his dreams to protect the country in the Air Force, as well as the sad, ironic truth about why he is on crutches to begin with.

Hoch takes your sympathies to strange places with Sam, a prison guard made to face a psychologist after his brutality on the job, and Andy, his most fully-realized and intense creation who works into rage discussing his past and his bleak future in prison, dying of AIDS. “Andy” is really a whole lot more sophisticated than that though, and alone is worth the cost of the movie to see how.

Still, in Hoch’s most satisfying moment, he plays himself and tells the true story of his invitation to guest star on an episode of Seinfeld, where he was to play “Ramon the Pool Guy.” He is told he can make the character whoever he wants, but is promptly flown home when he asks not to play the stereotype they’re looking for. The account includes Seinfeld and the staff’s own crass words on the matter.

If impeccable acting and writing weren’t enough, the film is also well scored, a la Mixmaster Mike and shot by Mark Benjamin ( Slam, Thug Life, and Whiteboys) The camera cuts from live performances, both in a traditional theater, in prison for an audience of inmates, and to sets with other actors within a single act which makes it that much more exciting to watch. Between each scene are freestyle rap sessions on the movies themes. At the end, Danny flows too, for you that know Spanish. I’m sure if I did, I’d enjoy it. After all, Danny Hoch has a lot to say, and if you like some perspective with your entertainment, it’s well worth hearing.

Jails Hospitals & Hip-Hop is © 2001, by Kicked Down Productions. Now on DVD. Rated R. Purchase online at
www.JHHtheFilm.com and visit www.DannyHoch.com


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