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Baby

Feature film

 

A tragic tale of an Asian youth's gang life in South East Los Angeles, set during the mid 80's to the early 90s. David stars as the titular character.  

 

Winner: Los Angeles Asian Film Festival - Emmerging Newcommer Award - Special Jury Prize

 

 

A mesmerizing performance by David Huynh in the title role and excellent support work by the rest of the cast, "Baby" is brash, stylish and super-violent. 

--G. Allen Johnson

 

This altogether shocking stuff, helped along by the uniformly stellar acting performances headed by newcomer David Huynh as Baby. 

--Abraham Ferrer

Huynh's portrayal of Baby is one of the most memorable performances...one that must convey both ferocity and yet loneliness and vulnerability ...executed with stylized direction and a supreme cast.

--SDAFF

 

Tiny and tattooed, he [David Huynh] mumbles through his role, giving Baby a modulated James Dean-like angst that serves the character well. 

--Don Willmott

 

...Chung allows his camera to watch Baby (David Huynh) in long moments of silent contemplatation, adding a little of the sorrowful tone of...Abel Ferrara's King Of New York... confident enough to make the troubled youth a conflicted and often weak character rather than a simple cipher of redemption the audience can root for...

...Chung, managed to have me both rooting for Huynh's Baby, while at the same time questioning his choices. This is hard to accomplish, but the writers and director did a great job of it...

--John Masters

BABY has got to be one of the most unforgettable films of this year's festival, as its brutal violence is tempered with quiet scenes of loneliness and despair. The film's acting is top notch, especially Huynh who plays the motherless Baby.

--DisOriented Film Festival

Mostly playing through a tough exterior, Huynh never lets go of the scared child that starts out the movie... "Baby" is an interesting take on one side of the Asian American culture that is rarely seen.

--Jeff Wong

San Francisco Chronicle

 

The (San Francisco International Asian American) festival notes hail this as the Asian American "Boyz N the Hood," but Juwan Chung's absolutely captivating feature debut also reminds me of "The Departed" (or, if you will, "Infernal Affairs") -- a young kid in East L.A. is taken under the wing of a gang leader, but that's just the beginning: the kid becomes a young man during a 7-year stretch in prison, and finds little chance of staying on the straight and narrow. 

 

A mesmerizing performance by David Huynh in the title role and excellent support work by the rest of the cast, "Baby" is brash, stylish and super-violent. 

 

--G. Allen Johnson

San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

 

At turns grim and electrifying BABY's prevasive fatalism recalls Albert and Allen Hughes' controversial 1993 breakthrough MENACE II SOCIETY in its efforts to paint a realistic, unsympathetic portrait of the 199s-era Los Angeles Asian American gang culture...

 

This altogether shocking stuff, helped along by the uniformly stellar acting performances headed by newcomer David Huynh as Baby. BABY, the movie, is assured, accomplished filmmaking - and an unflattering slice of life that is rarely, if ever, told from such a perspective.

 

--Abraham Ferrer

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San Diego Asian Film Festival

 

Dubbed by some critics as the Asian American Boyz n the Hood, Juwan Chung's second feature film BABY is undeniably a slice of urban ganglife type of film. The title character, Baby, is a motherless 11 year old boy who is taken under the wings of the gangsters next door in East Los Angeles during the 1990s. One dark evening ends with Baby shooting a rival gang member and landing him 7 years in juvenile hall. The adult Baby, played by newcomer David Huynh, re-enters society but has no real opportunities to change his life. The only father figure he really has is the gang ringleader Benny (Fedor Chin). The hardened and disillusioned Baby attempts to pick up the pieces of the adolescence he never had through the underbelly of Monterey Park and Alhambra. He is faced with conflicts as he tries to reconnect with his childhood best friend and his childhood sweetheart, both of whom seem to have grown up and moved on. Can Baby walk the straight and narrow path, or will he join his gang family once again?

 

The slow burning BABY packs an emotional punch in to several scenes and contains brutal depiction of violence. Huynh's portrayal of Baby is one of the most memorable performances in the film festival, one that must convey both ferocity and yet loneliness and vulnerability. It is rare to see a film about Asian American gang culture, even rarer to see it executed with stylized direction and a supreme cast.

 

--2007 SDAFF 

 

Film Critic

 

Trumpeted by its own marketing as "the Asian-American Boyz n the Hood," Baby suffers somewhat in comparison. Yes it is a vicious and violent gang flick set on the scruffy streets of a crummy LA neighborhood, but while Boyz had some deep emotional underpinnings (remember when Cuba Gooding Jr. mattered?), Baby goes for the gun every time, and as the bodies pile up, the viewer's main response is shell shock.

 

Although Baby (David Huynh) was barely more than a baby when he was sent to juvie on a manslaughter rap at age 11, he emerges after seven years a traumatized young man whose entire world has passed him by. His older brother is dead, his father (Tzi Ma) has surrendered to alcohol, and even his playground crush Sammy (Christina Stacey) has a boyfriend with a BMW. Even though he takes a stab at going legit by working as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant, Baby knows that the only thing he's any good at is "rollin'" with a gang. Flashbacks show us how his felonious brother got young Baby involved in crime in the first place. No wonder he feels he has no options.

 

Baby also has revenge on his mind, and one of his first orders of business is to visit Benny (Feodor Chin), the current neighborhood kingpin against whom Baby has been holding a grudge for those seven long years. A gang war inevitably starts, and there is so much wild and random carnage that it requires an epic suspension of disbelief to accept that so many corpses could pile up in one town without the police ever putting in an appearance.

 

The main problem here is there is no one to root for. At times, Baby is positioned as the "gangbanger with a heart of gold." He's a victim of negligent parents, of society, of the prison system. And yet, rather than rising above it or getting on bus for Portland, Oregon or finding a new girlfriend, all he can think to do is get a gun and start killing. In fact, the only real good guy in the film is Baby's childhood friend Petey (Peter Cho), a straight arrow who begs Baby to clean up his act. But we all know what happens to goody-goodies in gang pictures.

 

Despite all those complaints, Baby is quite watchable, with a kickass soundtrack, MTV editing, and multiple flashbacks to keep the action moving forward (and backward). David Huynh deserves better than this script. Tiny and tattooed, he mumbles through his role, giving Baby a modulated James Dean-like angst that serves the character well. It will be interesting to see what kinds of roles he can find in the future.

 

--Don Willmott

FilmCritic.com 

Hertfordshire Mercury

 

Billing Baby as an Asian-American Boyz N The Hood is halfway right, although this film is more concerned with a single individual's moral crisis than that of an entire community.

 

Growing up in East LA with no mother and a drunk for a father, Baby is just 11 when he's taken under the wing of a local gang after witnessing a murder.

 

His apprenticeship in crime continues in youth prison until he's freed at 18 and returns to his old 'hood; flirting briefly with the drudgery of a straight McJob, he's soon looking for old friends who have moved up and joining new ones on the rise.

 

Writer/director Juwan Chung allows his camera to watch Baby (David Huynh) in long moments of silent contemplatation, adding a little of the sorrowful tone of, say, Abel Ferrara's King Of New York.

 

He's also confident enough to make the troubled youth a conflicted and often weak character rather than a simple cipher of redemption the audience can root for, adding an additional edge as Baby attempts to determine how to be a man and tries to reconnect with the lost optimism of his past. 

 

--Hertfordshire Mercury 

Deep Something

 

A recent movie we watched on DVD was the 2008 movie "Baby". It was a well made movie that provided a tense and gritty look at gang life in East L.A. I was especially impressed with the actor who played the Character, Baby, David Huynh. After reading up on him, I was especially impressed at how authentic he made the character, but he seems to share none of Baby's background.

 

Huynh won a Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Los Angeles Asia Pacific Film Festival for Emerging Actor. I can concur with that. As noted, he played the part with sophistication and intensity, and it came across as very authentic. His acting was very subtle, but he conveyed a depth of emotional strain.

 

Huynh is a from Canada and has performed on both Canadian and American theater, television and film productions. David was seen on Canadian television on YTV's "2030 C.E." and appeared in Kiefer Sutherland's directorial debut "Woman Wanted". His stage performances include "Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang" and Berthold Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle". David studied at The Prairie Theatre Exchange, and was a student at The University of Manitoba, working on a major in Theatre and a minor in Film studies. Hardly the background to so convincingly portray an L.A. gangster.

 

He's also been on U.S. television as Sun Kim on the ABC program, "Invasion". But certainly his role as the title character in Baby has been his breakthrough performance. Unfortunately, I don't think it was seen by enough people.

 

--John Masters

Deep Something 2009

 
 
 
 

Deep Something

 

A tragic tale of an Asian youth's gang life in South East Los Angeles, set during the mid 80's to the early 90s. I'm not sure the movie ever went into general release in the theaters. It was released in 2008. Some scenes show graphic violence, and the language is a little salty from time to time. There was only one little sex scene showing no real nudity.

 

We rented this movie on DVD. This was a very interesting movie. It showed the dark side of gangs in general, and specifically within the Asian community, but it is not an Asian film. It really was more around the whole theme of how gang members come to be. The movie uses the classic construct of jumping back and forth between the past the present to tell the story. I'm OK with this approach, but it got a little chaotic in this movie. The interesting part is, the Director, Chung, managed to have me both rooting for Huynh's Baby, while at the same time questioning his choices. This is hard to accomplish, but the writers and director did a great job of it in this film.

 

--------------------------------SPOILER ALRT-------------------------------------

 

The movie opens with Huynh's character just arriving home from serving time in a juvenile prison for a murder. We eventually are "flashed back" to learn he was about 11 or so when he committed the crime, but we're first shown how he wound up involved with a gang at that young age. Interspersed, we see him attempting to find a place in this new life after prison. Without much help or hope, he returns to the old gang ways, and we follow him through that as well. As I noted, it's easy to root for him, in that we get a sense he could turn out to be a decent guy and turn things around, but he just never quite gets there.

 

--------------------------------SPOILER ALRT-------------------------------------

 

It also speaks clearly to how we wind up with kids in gangs. It's not hard when their parents and other positive influences are absent, I'd definitely recommend the film.

 

--John Masters

Deep Something 

DisOriented Film Festival

 

Described by many as the Asian American answer to BOYZ N THE HOOD, director Juwan Chung's BABY is a disturbing and dark look at urban gang life in East Los Angeles. It's gritty and ultra-violent style will make audiences grimace and wonder what's next for child-gangster Baby played by newcomer David Huynh. It is obvious that no one puts Baby in a corner, as he defies and defiles those in authority while silently struggling with his lost childhood. At a young age, Baby is a witness to a murder at the hands of a Chinese gang. Instead of killing Baby to cover their tracks, they recruit him to a life of drugs, sex, and violence that ultimately changes his life forever.

 

BABY has got to be one of the most unforgettable films of this year's festival, as its brutal violence is tempered with quiet scenes of loneliness and despair. The film's acting is top notch, especially Huynh who plays the motherless Baby.

 

--DisOriented FILM FESTIVAL 2008

 
 

Filmthreat

 

Being toted around the festival circuit as an Asian American "Boyz n the Hood," director Juwan Chung's film "Baby" stands alone as it makes an attempt to showcase that Asian American street gang life is not as glamorous as most movies would make it seem. These characters don't know martial arts. They don't have full-body tattoos. They don't wield Katana swords, and they suffer the same consequences that anyone else who chooses that life does.

 

Set in anywhere town, Southern California, "Baby" follows the exploits of the title character, as he has just gotten out of juvenile hall. He has spent the last seven years of his life there because he murdered someone when he was just eleven years old. As Baby is trying to readjust to his new life, he can't seem to escape from the one that he left behind. Baby continues to spiral downward as the choices he makes keep making life worse for him.

 

Newcomer David Hyunh does a good job of playing the confused lead. Mostly playing through a tough exterior, Hyunh never lets go of the scared child that starts out the movie. Veteran Asian actor, Tzi Ma does an excellent job of playing a drunk, poet father who is completely detached from his son's life. The one who steals the show here is Feodor Chin, as Benny. His portrayal of the villain in this story is spot on. He's the guy you absolutely love to hate, and he does an excellent job in this role, while allowing the other actors a great deal of room to play off of him. Unfortunately, this villain has a much bigger character arc than the main character does, and makes for a much more interesting and empathetic character.

 

The poor lighting of the film unfortunately overshadowed the great acting. I'm not sure if it was the theater I was in, but some of the key dramatic scenes were completely lost due to the fact that I couldn't see the actor's faces. Some of the best scenes of dialogue take place in the darkest of offices. There is one scene in the film, in which this was so distracting, that I couldn't tell which one of the characters had been killed.

 

Despite its lighting issues, "Baby" is an interesting take on one side of the Asian American culture that is rarely seen. Director Juwan Chung and co-writer Felix Chan obviously grew up with these kinds of stories surrounding them. I remember seeing stories on the news about shootouts in pool halls, and knowing there were certain Asian communities you didn't want drive through at night. These were no less scary than any of the stories we heard about Compton or East Los Angeles. The tale in "Baby," is just as tragic as any other regardless of Race. Though it probably would have played better in the early 90's, it doesn't make the story any less relevant.

 

--Jeff Wong 

filmthreat.com