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12 O’Clock Boys is an absolutely fabulous glimpse into the world of a young boy growing up in a rough neighborhood in Baltimore. In the streets of Baltimore rides a loose knit group of dirt bike riders, that patrol the streets illegally. However, due to strict police rules of non-pursuit, there is little that can be done to curb the riders. This group calls themselves the 12 O’Clock Boys. With little parental guidance, young Pug grows up idolizing the riders and hopes to one day become a 12 O’Clock Boy himself.

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In watching the film, the dirt bikes seemed almost irrelevant to the main theme of the story. The group serves as the proverbial devil on the shoulder or the tempting apple of Eden. No matter what his ultimate ambitions are in life, he always has at least one eye on the 12 O’Clock Boys. It constantly calls him. Pug’s older brother Tibba is the one force keeping him from being consumed by constant thoughts of riding. When Tibba dies, there is nothing keeping Pug on track.

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The story itself and the characters within are great. The feeling of desperation that the subjects exude onto the film is almost tangible. First time filmmaker Lotfy Nathan really hit a home run in capturing the life of Pug over these few years. He is to project the main characters as three-dimensional people, which is important in a documentary.

12 O’Clock Boys is a bit of a tale of two films, looks-wise, though. There are some shots of the riders going through the city that are just absolutely stunning. But there are numerous shots where the cinematographer couldn’t get the subjects in focus. The other criticism I had was that sometimes the story lost a bit of focus. You have the story of the bikers and where they’re from and what they’re about. Then you have the story of Pug. Then you have the story of his mother Coco, who is a character in her own right. Sometimes, as an audience member, you get a bit lost of who we should be focusing on primarily. All in all, this was an extraordinarily well-done effort by Nathan, especially considering this was his first feature documentary.

Check out the trailer below or the film’s website at: http://12oclockboys.com/

The film opens in select theaters 1/31/2014.

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