Often when discussions are had about Will Smith's early acting career, and the dramatic turns he made that were counter to his immensely popular "Fresh Prince" image, and which many consider some of his best acting work, his performance in Six Degrees Of Separation is the film that most mention.
But I wonder how many of you have seen a little indie film, made a year before Six Degrees (1992) titled Where The Day Takes You, Big Willie's feature film debut, in which he co-stars with an ensemble cast of actors, in a story that centers on a group of teenage runaways, who form something of a family of their own, as they try to survive the streets of Los Angeles, with drugs, prostitution, violence and more ruling their days.
Will isn't the star of the film, but he gets his moments to shine, in a project that was independently financed, and eventually released in theaters (limited), making roughly $390,000 at the box office in 1992; unheard of today for a Will Smith movie... his base salary alone these days is about 60 times that number!
The film was directed by a fellow named Marc Rocco whose most recognizable film would likely be 1995's Murder In The First, which starred Christian Slater, Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon.
In Where The Day Takes You, Will was surrounded by a pretty good cast of actors, like Laura San Giacomo, Dermot Mulroney, Balthazar Getty, Rachel Ticotin, Sean Astin, Ricki Lake and others.
Will plays a character named Manny, a crippled homeless man.
Critical consensus on the film rated it very well overall, for a drama that I thought was a good showcase of the talents for these then young up-and-comers.
The film is on DVD currently, so you can rent it with a Netflix account (it's not streaming unfortunately), although my research tells me that, despite the fact that the film's theatrical run was in 1992, it wasn't released on DVD until 2003. I couldn't immediately find what the reasons for that were. I'm surprised the distributors haven't exploited and pushed it more, especially as Will Smith's star has risen over the years, billing it as "Will Smith's Feature Film Debut," or something like that...
The film did tour the film festival circuit before its release, gathering acclaim along the way - nominated for the "Critics Award" at the Deauville Film Festival, and won the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle International Film Festival.
It's a nostalgic trip worth taking - something to add to your weekend viewing list. Again, it's on DVD, but not streaming on Netflix, to the disappointment of a lot of you I'm sure. Although Amazon does have it as an Amazon Instant Video rental or purchase, meaning, you can stream it via Amazon, but on a pay-per-view basis.
Watch the clip below which highlights Mr Smith: