Luke Monaghan has a taste for US culture. The young British writer/director broke through in a big way 18 months ago with a 10min documentary of the A$AP Mob crew for Channel 4. That lead to signing with Rokkit for representation and increasing music video and commercial gigs. However the documentary form still held his imagination. Monoghan proceeded to produce one of the best entries we’ve seen from Channel 4’s Random Acts strand with Ezekiel, a hypnotic look at a charismatic, young (an we mean young) preacher in the US bible belt, and now Monoghan once again looks to African-American subcultures for inspiration in Baby Gangster, a new piece for the fashion editorial site Nowness.
In our gang and violence obsessed culture there is always a fascination with the outlaw, and Staves is an interesting subject to focus on. He has left his drug days behind (a prison stint made it not completely voluntary), mellowed out, and now focuses on running a lowrider club called The Majestics. A scene in the middle of the film however, while addressing the club, Staves proves he can still be a hardass leader, not afraid to threaten and intimidate. Mostly Staves though is on his own in the film, musing about his past and expounding on his love of cars. The visual panache that one expects from a music video director is present, and combined with the showcase Monoghan is giving Staves, the film probably regards Staves too highly. Yet in the common confessionary way of these documentary profiles, Staves owns up to his wrongdoing, ultimately expressing regret for his role in the crack epidemic that ruined the neighborhood he loves, and providing the necessary balance to the nostaligc piece.
Monoghan gets great support from his now good friend A$AP Rocky who provides the score. Rocky’s contribution is a true boon for a film such as this, as it has boosted its profile in hip-hop communities enormously. Baby Gangster will get a lot of attention over the next several days, and deservedly so, as Monoghan, continues to be one of the finer tellers of American story — despite of course not being American.