As a filmmaker, RZA has never lacked ambition. From the kung fu epic ‘The Man with the Iron Fists’ to ‘Love Beats Rhymes,’ he has demonstrated that he is courageous enough to explore complex and diverse ideas. In the heist drama ‘Cut Throat City,’ he meticulously weaves a multilayered tale of poverty, institutionalized racism, and social disparity. Set predominantly in the 9th ward of New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina, the film is an unflinching depiction of how young, desperate men turn to a life of crime due to governmental apathy. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Cut Throat City Plot Synopsis
The film follows a group of four friends, Blink/James (Shameik Moore), Miracle (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), Junior (Keean Johnson), and Andre (Denzel Whitaker), who have big dreams but are gradually realizing that those may not materialize. The film begins with Blink’s wedding to Demyra (Kat Graham), his long-time partner and son’s mother. Blink is a writer and illustrator currently working on the eponymous graphic novel. After he fails to sell it to yet another publication house, he and his friends approach Cousin Bass (T.I.), a local gang leader and Demyra’s relative, to work for him.
After warning Blink and his friends of severe consequences if they ever were to double-cross him, Cousin Bass asks them to rob a casino for him. However, the robbery turns out to be a disaster when a second group shows up wearing police uniforms. In the ensuing gunfight, Andre is killed. The remaining three friends soon realize that they are caught in the middle of a gang war between Cousin Bass and the Saint (Terrence Howard), a scripture-quoting, ruthless crime lord.
Blink, Miracle, and Junior go on a robbery spree and seem to embrace a life of crime. A desperate Demyra reaches out to the local councilman, Jackson Symms (Ethan Hawke), to save her husband. Police Detective Lucinda Benoit (Eiza González) used to study at the same school as Blink and has always loved his art. She meets Blink and unsuccessfully tries to convince him to stop. But the interaction makes Blink realize that he and his friends don’t have much time before either the police or criminals kill them.
Cut Throat City Ending: Does Blink Survive?
As the film progresses towards its ending, it becomes more and more ambiguous. After the first robbery, the meeting between Blink and his friends and Cousin Bass rapidly devolves into a shootout. Since then, the friends have been on the run from Cousin Bass, who later speaks to Demyra about her husband’s whereabouts. This, in turn, prompts her to reach out to Symms.
They share a history. Symms’ wife had cancer and was looked after by Demyra. Symms then speaks to his long-time acquaintance, the Saint. They run the 9th together through Courtney (Rob Morgan), a former police officer. After the Saint kills Cousin Bass, the three friends are allowed to come back to their homes. Lucinda shows up at Blink’s doorstep and gives him the casino chip she found earlier in his home, so he can fix the door that she broke.
Blink realizes that she had enough evidence to arrest him but didn’t because she wanted to give him a second chance at life as well. At that moment, he is genuinely thankful. He is alive and out of jail because of multiple people’s efforts, including his wife, and he doesn’t want to waste this opportunity. The last 15 minutes of the film create at least 2 possible endings to the story and leaves it to the audience to decide which one they want to believe. According to one ending, the misery doesn’t end for Blink and his friends even after getting their second chance.
Katrina has completely devastated the local economy. Jobs are still unavailable, and FEMA has already declined Blink’s and Demyra’s request for aid. It isn’t long before Blink, Junior, and Miracle realize that the only way out of their immediate situation is still crime. They know that they can’t rob casinos any longer because those businesses will be ready for them. So, robbing a bank becomes their only option. Like their first robbery, this one goes horribly wrong. Miracle kills the security officer who got the hostages out of the bank. As they prepare to leave, the police arrive. Junior and Miracle are killed in the ensuing shootout.
Blink steps out of the bank and stands before the police and media with a bag of money in each hand. As Demyra stares horrified, her husband is executed on live television. The following scene involving his graphic novel’s launch is the last hallucination of a dying man, showing him what his life could have been. This ending is reinforced by Demyra and her son moving in with Blink’s father, Lawrence (Wesley Snipes). After Blink’s death, Demyra’s financial situation has likely worsened, and now she has no choice but to turn to the only person who is willing to support her and her son.
According to the 2nd ending, Blink dreams of the bank robbery and discards the entire plan. He continues to work on his graphic novel until it is published. That conversation with Belinda actually happens at the book’s launch, where he thanks her for not finishing her sketch, indicating to her that he knows that she chose not to arrest him. When Demyra takes their son to meet his grandfather, it’s just a visit to introduce the two to each other. Blink and Lawrence parted ways on bad terms. This is Blink’s way of offering his father an olive branch.
What Does the Mid-Credits Scene Mean?
The mid-credits scenes in ‘Cut Throat City’ supports the 2nd ending. It shows Symms killing Courtney and appointing Miracle as the latter’s replacement. If Miracle is alive, so is Blink and Junior, implying that the bank robbery never happened. However, while Blink finds a life outside the world of crime, not everyone can be as lucky. Symms has evidence to incriminate Miracle for Courtney’s murder, but the former drug dealer doesn’t care. As the precinct’s overseer, he now works directly under Symms and the Saint. This entails real power.
Read More: Best Heist Films of All Time