Fuller draws you into the film with the promise of a pulpy sordid murder mystery. But then somewhere in the middle, the murder mystery almost gets abandoned for a while as the characters get engulfed in all this relationship stuff and the racial issues take the foreground. But then Fuller manages to bring it all back in a gorgeous climax which acts as a perfect bridge between the two storylines.
The whole thing is a ton of fun really. Gorgeously shot in lovely long takes and alternating smoothly between wide shots of the city streets and bold, dramatic close-ups in the interior shots. Plus, the characters are all really fun to hang out with, especially Anna Lee as a fun-loving, alcoholic artist. I also love how Fuller doesn’t restrict his stylistic flourishes just to the pivotal scenes. That opening dance sequence is a great example. Fuller shoots it in a way that makes it seem more grotesque than titillating. Another scene that stands out for me is the POV shots in the scene where someone tries to shoot Chris in the sorority house. It’s such a wonderfully tense scene, almost like a tiny little horror film in the middle of this character drama.
I think my one reservation about the film is the “it’s all in his head” resolution to the racial conflict. It’s not that I think Fuller is insensitive. The whole film is so dignified in its portrayal of the ethnic characters, never relying on accents or silly stereotyping of any sort. But that did feel a bit too neat and simplistic. Seeing as how I liked the film, I chalked it up to Fuller wanting an optimistic, happy ending.