Eighteen-year-old Kevin Carson lives at the Fillmore, in the Atlanta projects. He and best bro Benny are looking at a pretty bleak future, with no dough for college. That, and none of the "smuts" (sexy, loose women in the 'hood who make grown men pant) will give them the time of day.
Only plain-Jane Stacie, the girl next door, is a true ally—but she's invisible to them when the smuts go on parade. So after Kevin wins the Mondo Millions Lottery—to the tune of $370 million—Stacie knows lead smut Nikki is playing him. Why else would this no-class, gold-digging Jezebel suddenly notice that some broke homey even has a pulse?
But there's one other, much bigger problem. He's named Lorenzo, and he's a "premature crack-baby felon" who's a bully and a thief. Oh, and he carries about 200 pounds of muscle on each arm. So it looks like Kevin's dreams of using the money to change the Fillmore (and the world) are kaput when Lorenzo steals the lottery ticket. That is, until the mysterious—presumed to be serial killer—Mr. Washington shows up to save Kev from both Lorenzo and, ultimately, a shrewd mafia magnate named Sweet Tee.
Benny and Kevin are longtime friends who love each other and have each other's back. When they work through the difficulties caused by mounds of cash, their friendship grows even stronger.
Stacie is an occasional voice of reason. She tells Kevin to use the money to help others thrive and revamp their bleak, crumbling concrete world. She also warns him of Nikki's intentions—though Kevin is so blinded by the other girl's sexy strutting that he doesn't listen.
Mr. Washington protects Kevin and teaches him a thing or two about self-defense and friendship. And despite Washington's sketchy past (or at least the rumors of it), Kevin does errands for him and offers food through the hermit's basement window. Mr. W. actually goes into public for the first time in 22 years just to save Kevin.
The Reverend Taylor, Grandma's unctuous and cartoonish preacher, schmoozes for cash to build a luxurious megachurch site, since that kind of place would make people want to load up the offering plates. And he insists that God wants him to have a smut for a wife. (A real beauty, unlike his boxy ex-wife, he says.) It's not a surprise, then, that much of Taylor's "sermon" is nonsensical.
"Help me, Jesus," "Praise the Lord," "Thank you, Jesus" and "Oh, Lord Jesus" are uttered repeatedly during a church service and throughout conversations. Benny asks Grandma if she's been using "Jesus and cocoa butter" to look so good, adding that Jesus is "sexy and saved." Grandma describes a dream in which Jesus is driving a bus during the recession, prompting Benny to ask how Jesus could get a driver's license without a birth certificate. Kevin says that, other than Jesus, he's all Grandma has—and Jesus ain't payin' the rent. Benny tells the church congregation that "the biggest sinner" has come to get saved when Lorenzo interrupts a service.
It's said that Kevin is the "Moses of the projects" after he wins big. Grandma throws holy water on him to protect him and the ticket. She drinks alcohol straight from the bottle, getting tipsy, singing spirituals and saying she's hot for Jesus. She wants Kevin to date Stacie because Stacie goes to church.
Nikki is after one thing: having a baby with a rich man. She grabs Kevin's bottom, seductively and passionately kissing him before stripping down to her bra and panties and lying on top of him. She asks Kevin not to wear a condom during sex. (We see the condoms.) When he insists, she grumbles and kicks him out, saying she wants to be a baby mama in order to get her share of the wealth. She says her body is her lottery ticket.
Stacie (in a negligee) and Kevin almost have sex as well, kissing and groping as Kevin lies on top of her. She wants him to wear a condom—and he seems turned on by that. (They're interrupted when her mother comes home.)
Men go shirtless, showing off chiseled chests. The smuts wear skirts so short I'm not even sure they qualify as skirts. They're more like bands of fabric that cover the most crucial pelvic areas. We therefore see all of their legs along with lots of cleavage, which we see up-close and sometimes in slow-mo. The smuts are well-practiced at making seductive facial expressions. Men around them ham it up with desire, panting, gasping and groaning.
Masturbation, birth control, bodily functions, sexually transmitted diseases, mail-order brides and "doing the nasty" are all crudely joked about. A man tells Kevin to use some of the winnings to go to a strip club and "make it real." Another offers his sister in exchange, so it's implied, for money. Women are spoken of in terms of hotness and "booty" size. A man asks if a pretty girl is "18 yet."
Lorenzo chases Kevin through a subway station, and he beats up several men, wrenching their arms, grabbing and twisting their crotches and, we're told, landing one of them in the hospital. Just one of his punches will floor a man, so when Kevin is repeatedly socked, his mouth is so badly injured he spits out large quantities of blood. Eventually, Lorenzo is KO'd, too.
Guns are held to people's heads, including Stacie's and Kevin's. Death threats are uttered often. Sweet Tee says he would cut off a debtor's legs at the knees, grind them into hamburger and then force the man to watch dogs eat them.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Kevin and his homies (several of whom are also underage) drink it up in the back of a limo. A man says he'd get "drunk as h‑‑‑" if he won the lottery.
Other Negative Elements
Benny pushes Stacie's face away patronizingly when the smuts approach them. The clear implication: a woman's worth is determined mainly—if not exclusively—by her appearance, and Stacie just doesn't measure up.
Lorenzo uses bullying tactics to try to get Foot Locker employee Kevin to give him and his henchmen free shoes. Kevin passively seems to agree in order to avoid getting hurt. (But when Lorenzo shows up at the store, Kevin refuses him.) Kevin then, perhaps unfairly, loses his job because of his hesitation to deny having a deal with Lorenzo. Later, Lorenzo steals a number of items. Kevin lies about having the lottery ticket.
Kevin wisely says that the lottery system is designed to keep poor people poor, but his neighbors only laugh and criticize his comments.
Director and screenwriter Erik White says in Lottery Ticket's production notes, "When I was a kid, I'd see Ed McMahon on television, going up to someone's house with a giant check. I always wondered why he never came to the projects, where I lived. I'd think, 'Man, wouldn't it be great if somebody I knew actually won that much money?' The flip side of that was, winning that much money in this neighborhood, where everyone knows your business—would that be a good thing or a bad thing?"
True to White's childhood musings, his first feature film explores whether newfound—and totally unexpected—wealth is a good thing or a bad thing. Final consensus? Both.
Most of Kevin's fickle-as-cats "friends" provide him with absolutely no real support … until they believe he's wealthy. Then the teenager nobody took seriously or paid attention to suddenly turns into the projects' prized "possession"—for as long as everybody thinks he's got the cash.
This burden of wealth is extreme for the 18-year-old who's not prepared for college, let alone the power, responsibility and hassle that accompany $370 million. We watch Kevin as he decides whom to trust and whom to run from—and it's gratifying when his true friendships grow stronger.
Unfortunately, his growth comes at a hefty price for moviegoers as White lets profanity, religious mockery, base sexuality and contempt for women move in on his original concept.