I didn’t think Cut Throat City would have a twist. Then, suddenly, it did. If you’re reading this, you probably had the same exact questions as me, “Wait, did that FEMA heist actually happen?” And “Did any of it happen?”
The short answer is: no, yes.
The long answer is: The FEMA heist was part of the “Cut Throat City” graphic novel Blink’s working on. But everything else happened.
Let me explain.
The FEMA heist and just how meta CTC is
Leading up to the FEMA heist, our three main characters, Blink (Shameik Moore), Miracle (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), and Junior (Keean Johnson), have all returned home following the post-casino-heist Odyssey that made up a majority of the movie.
Once they’re back home, we spend the most time with Blink—he reconnects with his wife and his art room makes its glorious return. We catch Miracle sleeping in his car. And Junior washing out empty kennels after the unfortunate demise of his dog. Things are arguably worse for these guys than before the casino heist. Begging the questions: what did they really accomplish and did they make the right choice in going back to the 9th Ward?
If you’re kind of half paying attention, you see this montage then the cut to the guys hanging out, drinking, realizing they need to do one more job and rob FEMA. It seems sudden and stupid but also makes sense as none of them have anything. The heist doesn’t go well and we watch as all three fall in a hail of bullets. Then they aren’t dead. It was art?
It can be confusing.
The good news is that RZA includes a visual clue that lets us definitively answer what happened. The bad news is, on first viewing, it’s easy to overlook.
Right before the cut to the “lets rob FEMA scene,” we see Blink working on some art. It’s just a sketch at that point. But we can tell he’s focused and invested. Caught up in the vibe, he finishes a line then throws the pencil over his shoulder so he can grab a different one. There’s a slow-mo shot of the pencil landing on the floor. That’s one bookend.
It’s after the pencil that we get the whole “we need to do one more job” scene, the FEMA heist, and everyone dying.
Then we cut back to Blink further along on his drawing. There’s color now rather than just a sketch. He adds a few lines then throws another pencil over this shoulder, just like before. And just like before, we see the pencil hit the floor in slow-mo. It lands right next to the first one. This is our other bookend.
These visual bookends serve as demarcation points between reality and art. The reality is Blink’s been working on the cover of this graphic novel he calls CTC. Which we know means Cut Throat City and is where the movie title comes from. The whole FEMA heist is nothing more than a scene in CTC. It represents where the story could have gone if Blink and the others lost hope.
But not everything was fiction. That’s why that last conversation between detective Benoit (Eiza González) and Blink is important. Blink thanks her for not “finishing that sketch.” A reference to a threatening quip she made earlier about working on the details of the casino robbery that could lead to Blink’s arrest. That’s how RZA confirms that “Yes, most of what we saw did happen,” without saying it outright.
We are water
The last lines we hear from Blink have to do with water. “You know, water can give life and water can take life. But all water has perfect memory, forever trying to return from where it once came. And that’s home.”
You may notice the connection between what’s said about water and our main characters. Blink, Miracle, and Junior have the capacity to do good things or bad things. Circumstances took them down one path. But they came home and found renewal. So Blink’s essentially saying, “People are water. And people can go down a good path or a bad path.”
How you interpret the “home” part of that quote can vary. What is home? Clearly New Orleans is important to Cut Throat City. Specifically the 9th Ward. So do you read this as being about the location? Or about other things? Like “Home is where family is.” Or “Home is where the heart is,” as in Blink’s heart was in art, not crime, and by giving up art he went on a journey that brought him back to it.
The “right” answer is probably a little bit of everything. This final speech adds a bit of thematic depth to Cut Throat City that can keep you thinking about the movie long after Netflix suggests you watch something else.
I certainly want to believe that your explanation is the correct one . At first I thought all three died in the fema heist . Then I thought , maybe not . Firstly because Blink knew that he had way too much to lose by risking another robbery gig and he was way too smart to not realize how fortunate he and his boys were to get out of the mess that they were in and how many strings were pulled to make that mess go away . Secondly because Blink was at a book signing after the heist and that could only have happed if the FEMA heist didn’t happen . Then , I get thrown off and wonder why Demyra is taking Ike to see his grandfather without Blink accompanying them . It seems out of order for Demyra to take Ike without Blink , even if Blink had an argument with his father . So , which was the art ? The heist ? or the book signing?
I certainly want to believe that your explanation is the correct one . At first I thought all three died in the fema heist . Then I thought , maybe not . Firstly because Blink knew that he had way too much to lose by risking another robbery gig and he was way too smart to not realize how fortunate he and his boys were to get out of the mess that they were in and how many strings were pulled to make that mess go away . Secondly because Blink was at a book signing after the heist and that could only have happed if the FEMA heist didn’t happen . Then , I get thrown off and wonder why Demyra is taking Ike to see his grandfather without Blink accompanying them . It seems out of order for Demyra to take Ike without Blink , even if Blink had an argument with his father . So , which was the art ? The heist ? or the book signing? What ? Wait a minute , I just watched passed the credits and it shows the councilman killing Detective Courtney on Andre’s grave and handing money and control of the 9th ward over to Miracle . It’s obvious after watching that scene , that we know that the heist was just a story that was part of Blinks graphic novel and did not actually happen . Therefore Blink , Miracle and Junior are all still alive . I hope I’m not spoiling that for anybody . If you didn’t watch past the credits , go back and check it out .
Thanks for the explanation, it was confusing.
My thing is why not show white boy doing something better, like getting more dogs. Anyway I enjoyed the movie and the messages. Looking forward to more of his works.
Yeah, I had a lot of things in the movie that I wish had been a little improved lol. But, like you, I enjoyed what it was going for and looking forward to the next thing.