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This Week's Film Reviews ( Apr 16, 2021)

07 Apr 2021

FILM REVIEWS



3½ MINUTES, 10 BULLETS (USA 2015) ***1/2

Directed by Marc Silver

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving November 2012, four boys in a red SUV pull into a gas station in a Florida neighbourhood after spending time at the mall buying sneakers and talking to girls.  With music blaring, one boy exits the car and enters the store, a quick stop for a soda and a pack of gum.  A man and a woman pull up next to the boys in the station, making a stop for a bottle of wine. The woman enters the store and an argument breaks out when the driver of the second car asks the boys to turn the music down. 3 1/2 minutes and ten bullets later, one of the boys is dead. 3 1/2 MINUTES dissects the aftermath of this fatal encounter.

The doc begins with the court case.  The boys take the stand and tell their story.  So does the shooter’s girlfriend, who together have left a wedding after consuming a considerable amount of alcohol.  David Michale Dunn is on trial for murder of Jordan.  Jordan’s parents also have a say to the camera making the doc a very personal one.

Director Marc Silver’s well crafted and executed documentary 3 1/2 MINUTES. 10 BULLETS unfolds with more emotional drama than most fiction films.  There is also an important message in the tragic story of two families.  It is the question of tolerance and repeat.  If these two values were observed by the victim and predator, the tragedy could surely be avoided, to the relief of both families.  But what is done is done and the doc shows the horrid consequences both parties have to face in the court of Florida.

What actually happens is quite straightforward, but there are so many points of view or ways of examining the situation as demonstrated in the courtroom.  Basically there was an argument about the loud music.  When the victim came out of his car, he was shot, the shooter claiming it to be self defence.

Director Silver shows both sides of the story but clearly his film is one the side of the victim.  The audience will be too, as there is absolutely no reason for anyone to get shot no matter what the circumstance.  And self defence can be an argument used as some excuse but killing someone is no excuse for bad behaviour that should be punished.  The sight of the killer sitting in the courtroom trying to look sad and sympathetic makes him look even more pathetic.  Silver’s camera settles on him a number of times before he is revealed to be the defendant.

One of the film’s most moving and surprising parts is Dunn’s girlfriend’s testimony.  Dunn claims that he perceived the boys having a weapon.  When cross-examined she tells the truth that Dunn never mentioned to her of him seeing or imagine seeing a gun to her that day, evening or next day.  This testimony has a big effect on the jury as it implies Dunn lying about his self-defence defence.

It took a while before this 2015 doc premiering widely on Hollywood Suite, Monday, April 26 at 9pm ET.  The doc is definitely worth a look.

 

Trailer: 

 

ARLO THE ALLIGATOR BOY (USA 2021) ***

Directed by Ryan Crego

 

ARLO THE ALLIGATOR BOY is an upcoming American 2D Netflix original animated adventure musical film directed by Ryan Crego in his directorial debut.   

Arlo, when he first appears can be seen to be half human, half alligator.  Did his human father have a thing for alligators?  Don’t ask?  Many cartoons have unimaginable background stories which might be too adult for kids to imagine.  So as the saying goes, Ask no questions and no lies be told!

When the film opens, Arlo is living happily in his sheltered life in the swamp.  Upon learning that he is from New York City,  Arlo decides to leave the swamp and goes to New York City in search of his human father.  It is a journey in which Arlo will encounter a whole lot of adventures, while growing up as well in this rather imaginative coming-of-age animated feature.

Warning: this animation feature is extremely silly.  Silly is not the same as goofy but both can be hilarious as many animated cartoons have proven.  Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd) and SPONGEBOB SQAREPANTS are extremely goofy.  And funny.  ARLO THE ALLIGATOR BOY is pure silly.  Take the unrelated scene where director Crego has a cat and cow kissing for no apparent reason.  Or the introduction of a charter called Bertie, a huge gigantic girl who becomes Arlo’s friend and protector.  When Arlo meets Bertie (aka ‘the beast’), he sings the ‘Bertie’ song.  When Arlo is attacked, Bertie would shield Arlo shouting: “Why don’t you pick someone twice your size?”  The film is also filled with catchy, uppity songs - just to enliven the mood of anyone down with the Covid-19 blues.

The feature’s best segment is the duet sung by Arlo and big  Bertie ``Follow me Home”.  The song, a beautiful melody with meaningful lyrics tells of how lonely one can be when one is different from the others, as Bertie feels.  All Arlo’s friends join in the song as they frolic in the ocean,  The musical number ends with a hilarious one-liner from Marcellus the fish.  The best joke?  “I’m walking here,” as the bus driving Arlo swerves around the pedestrians who scream the phrase first heard coming from Ratso Rizzo played by DustinHoffman when he crosses a street in NYC in John Schlesinger’s MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

The question is whether Arlo is able to find his real father among the huge population of NYC, and if he does, whether his father will accept him.  The film lags a bit after Arlo finds him, with the film heading towards a quite unreliable (even for an animated feature) ending.  But as this is an animated fantasy, one should not complain.

According to the closing credits, the feature was made during the Covid-19 lockdown, which in itself is quite the achievement.

ARLO THE ALLIGATOR BOY opens on Netflix Friday April 16th and will be followed by a 20-episode streaming television series titled I ❤️️Arlo.  Judging from the pilot film, it should be a success, following the footsteps of the similar goofy animated excursion, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.  It will be a good challenge to see which one is goofier.

Trailer: 

 

THE BANISHING (UK 2020) **

Directed by Christopher Smith

 

A Shudder original film, THE BANISHING is an haunted house horror film set in the U.K. with a period setting.  With a popular haunted house scenario, the film capitalizes on the Borley Rectory, the county manor that is very well-known and given the ‘prestigious’ title of the most haunted house in England.  

When the film opens a woman and her daughter moves in with her husband into the said haunted house.  Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay of DOWNTON ABBEY) re-unites with Linus (John Heffernan), the local vicar.   Daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce) eventually becomes the home of a possessing spirit, for silly seasons made known later by some stranger, Harry Price (Sean Harris) who somehow seems to know everything.  He is deemed major trouble by Linus and the bishop with the Biblical name, Malachi (John Lynch).  Malachi is quite the character, a nasty bishop if ever one has seen, who enjoys wearing the huge gold cross around his neck like a gangsta.  He also behaves as one.

Cinematography-wise the film looks close to picture perfect, the only one good plus in this otherwise dense and uninteresting film, despite the outrageous evil bishop and Findlay’s performance.  Findlay holds the film together until the end when director Smith decides two have two Mariannes on show.

The film’s setting of WWII with Hitler coming to power has little to do with the story.  The excuse of not doing anything being worse than doing something appears the only reason for the setting.

Director Smith must have great dislike for the church.  Any character in the film connected to the church is full of faults.  The vicar, Marianne’s husband is truly nasty.  He screams at the family servant, never fulfils his duty as husband (“refrain from sexual acts,” he reads from the Bible) and mistreats his wife.  The bishop is not much of an improvement either.  He has ties to Hitler.  The bishop is a vicious prick who scares Marianne using religion as an excuse.  When he dislikes someone in the parish, he hires thugs to get them beaten up.

The script seems eager to quote the scriptures out of context.  Besides the ‘refrain from sexual acts, another involves Jesus on the cross crying to God :Why has you forsaken me?”

For a haunted house movie, there are the usual expectations like things that go bump in the dark; eerie music; weird noises (real or imagined?) and strange behaviour.  All this comes with the need to deliver a message at the end.  During the vicar’s sermon to his parishioners are heard” “I have been asked to pray for peace, and peace is a good thing”, and “There is nothing worse than doing nothing, referring to the war with Hitler, and some mumbo jumbo about darkness and light.”

Yes, THE BANISHING gets sillier as it tries to get scarier.  It all comes down to the vicar not having sex with his wife.  Best banish this horror flick from your list of films to be seen during lockdown.

If you still want to see the film, THE BANISHING comes to Shudder in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand on April the 15th.

Trailer:

 

Trailer: 

 

BEAST BEAST (USA 2021) ***

Directed by Danny Madden

The film begins with the words: "Today is the day of reckoning.  BEAST BEAST, ready to act” which are chanted by kids, all a premonition of some horror yet to unfold, though the film just breezes through the activities of the kids in the first half hour of running time.

The kids in the film do supposedly cool stuff like skateboarding tricks, partying, making videos, and attending acting classes.  The adults, however, are shown to always be in conflict with the kids and idiots.  Having fun seems to be the only thing of importance in the kids’ minds.

The actors are given a free hand in the film to express themselves, as their characters are told the way to act in a scene by their professor where they study in an acting class.

The characters are shown their personalities by their actions.  For example, one kid fires a weapon near a road in the woods, thinking it is cool.  That is the personality of an asshole.  Another puts her feet up while in a class.  This reveals a personality of a kid with an attitude who thinks herself better than others.

After a lengthy introduction, the film focuses on three of the kids.  All three carry on their own brand of charisma.  One is Krista (Shirley Chen) who is one of the spirited participants in the drama class.  There is one short scene where she is shown auditioning for a role, which could very well be the role of this film.  Krista is confident, makes friends easily and ends life a breeze.  The opposite can be said of Adam (played by the director’s brother, Will Madden), a gun-totter who hopes to make money on the internet by posting ‘how to’ with various weapons.  He is charismatic in his own way, talkative and would be successful if guided in the correct path.  However, his parents have left Adam to disown devices, leaving him locked up in his room all day and ending up a loser with no real goal in life.  He initially only gets 46 views for his effort and when he gets over 4 thousand views, they all criticize his work negatively.  The third is Into (Jose Angeles) good looking, well built and pretty cool with his skateboard.  With his good looks, Into can charm almost anyone.  Unfortunately he runs into a gang of thieves.  Bad company leads to stealing and doing other bad things.

The paths of the three intersect.

Director Madden appears to be having fun with his cast as evident in most of the film segments which are amusing despite bad undertones.  For example, when Nito steals stuff from the grocery store, the cashier is described as bitch face and the incident unfolds comically rather than in a tense fashion.

Nito’s locker is above Krista’s locker in school.  They meet and become friends.  Krista says hi to Adam’s dad  in one scene as she walks by Adam’s house.  But what eventually happens (not disclosed in the review) is totally tragic and avoidable.  Director Madden’s film gets more serious and darker as his film progresses towards its tragic climax leading to a film with a solid punch.

Trailer:

 

BEATE (BLESSED (Italy 2018) **

Directed by Samad Zarmandili

A comedy about nuns always appears quite an attractive concept on paper.  But comedies about nuns seldom make the mark - not even Monty Python spin-off’s NUNS ON THE RUN was remotely funny.  The Italians get a go where with their 2018 venture entitled BEATE which means BLESSED in English.  They succeed with just a little more humour (though the film is credited with 3 writers) though one could hardly call it a success.  This could be the reason this Italian comedy (in Italian with English subtitles) took this long to be available in North America.

This comedy comes with a message of displaced workers who should be given rights and respect.  To the film’s credit, the message is not pounded into the audience but just left in the storyline.

A small lingerie sewing operation on the Italian northeast coast is betrayed by a boss who wants to move their skilled labor to Serbia.  The seamstresses team up under Armida (Donatella Finocchiaro) with an endangered local convent, famed for its lace work, to try and save both institutions.  Armida’s aunt (Lucia Sardo) is one of the convent’s nuns.  Armida is also the sewing company’s boss’ pet, thus she is given a rude awakening as well as ‘shit’ from her co-workers.  The boss, Veronica is played with more humour than evil cunning by Anna Belato.  It is time for the females to unite.  This is pretty much a female story - no harm in that - with hardly any men in the feature except for the pope and Armida’s always in-heat boyfriend who seems to be around only as Armida’ sex object.  He is described by her as a nobody but he claims that at least he is quite the hunk of meat.

The Italian town is not identified and it is very apparent that it is a very small town.  How then can there be a large enough market to buy all the merchandise made to pay the salaries of all the workers as well as the convent renovations?

The best thing about this Italian female comedy is its colour - from the wardrobe, set decoration and props.   The art decor is reminiscent of the female Pedro Almodovar comedies like WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.  (Almodovar has also made a ‘nun’ film - DARK HABITS.

Despite the film’s unfunniness, the characters are quite hilarious.  Lucia Sardo’s aunt is quite hilarious with her huge eyes and fussing personality.  The Mother Superior is in ill health with a semi-stroke but still insists on bossing every nun around.  Unfortunately, Finocchiaro’s Armida falls flat as comedy.  Her character is a 40ish single mother, who walks with a lifelong limp  due to being born with a clubbed foot.  A minor character is young Sister Caterina (Maria Roveran) who takes over running the convent and saving it.  When the other nuns complain about making the devil’s garments, Caterina’s reply is for them to shut up and just do it.

BEATE wastes a good concept with cheap and unimaginative humour - but at least it is filmed in glorious colour.

Trailer: 

BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Jeffrey Wolf

Many have not heard of the artist Bill Traylor.  As one of the interviewees says at the introduction of the film, Bill Traylor is the greatest artist one has never known.  Director Jeffrey Wolf attempts to show the reason in his intriguing new documentary on Traylor entitled BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS.   One of his paintings has a ghost-like figure being chased.  The film’s opening words begin with the quote: One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it.

The documentary explores the life of a unique American artist, a man with a remarkable and unlikely biography.  It begins with the history of Traylor.  Bill Traylor (1853 - 1949)  was born into slavery in 1853 on a cotton plantation in rural Alabama.   After the Civil War, Traylor continued to farm the land as a sharecropper until the late 1920s.   Aging and alone, he moved to Montgomery (the town in Alabama)  and worked odd jobs in the thriving segregated black neighbourhood.  A decade later, in his late 80s, Traylor became homeless but living in the busiest street in Montgomery, and started to draw and paint, both memories from plantation days and scenes of a radically changing urban culture.  He eventually lost one leg due to gangrene before his death.

What is most intriguing is the history of the black slave captured on film and illustrated with images, many of Traylor’s.   Having witnessed profound social and political change during a life spanning slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, and the Great Migration, Traylor devised his own visual language to translate an oral culture into something original, powerful, and culturally rooted.   He made well over a thousand drawings and paintings within his life time. This colourful, strikingly modernist work eventually led him to be recognized as one of America’s greatest self-taught artists and the subject of a Smithsonian retrospective.  What made Trayor unique was the fact that he was a slave, he was self taught and he was pure.  A subject joked that if he was a woman he would become even more famous.

Using historical and cultural context, Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s incomparable art to life.  Making dramatic and surprising use of tap dance and evocative period music, most of it quite uplifting, the film balances archival photographs and footage, insightful perspectives from his descendants, and Traylor’s striking drawings and paintings to reveal one of America’s most prominent artists to a wide audience.

A fair portion of the film is narrated by Charles Shannon, the white man who claims himself to be the one who discovered Traylor.  His narration puts Traylor’s drawings into time perspective.  Bill’s grandchildren and great grandchildren,  also interviewed create more personality and intimacy (many humorous) for the film.  Many knew that Bill drew, but did not know that his drawings became famous and precious.  This had resulted in a big lawsuit.

This film opens April 16 in select theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide.

Trailer: 

 

INTHE EARTH (UK 2021) **

Directed by Ben Wheatley

 

IN THE EARTH is a cautionary hallucinatory nightmare that shows the damage that can be done when nature and humans interact to the point of obsession and insanity.

As the world searches for a cure to a disastrous virus akin to what the world is currently going through with Covid-19, a scientist, Martin (Joel Fry) and park scout, Alma (Hayley Squires) venture deep in the forest for an equipment run in a study of soil fertility.  They come across Zach (Reech Shearsmith), a squatter in the woods who apparently is very nice to them, but only for the time being.

It is a simple story that turns horrific.  The plot starts going all over the place without making much sense.  Too bad, as the relevant premise could have generated much more interest given the virus setting.  Directly Ben Wheatley has been an intriguing young filmmaker rising to fame since his initial hit, THE SIGHTSEERS leading to hits like THE KILL LIST, A FIELD IN ENGLAND (that I absolutely hated) and his most recent REBECCA.  Except for the SIGHTSEERS, I never really liked Wheatley’s work.  IN THE EARTH falls short of the mark as well.

Despite the straight forward storyline, a lot of incidents occurring in the film are scattered and have been hastily put together, which Wheatley does with flashbacks.  One is the beginning scene where a rock is being hammered to bits and then placed on the ground and covered.  This scene is revisited later on in the film.  The quarantine (the staff at the woods facility all wear masks) and the virus are never explained clearly.  The casting of two British actors with an east Indian accent leads to difficulty in understanding what they are saying, especially for North American audiences.  For example,  I cannot make out the film’s last line of dialogue spoken by Squires.  Wheatley could have asked his actors to speak slowly and to be more articulate.

For a horror sci-fi film, Wheatley is quite nasty in his depiction of his graphic violence.  There is one almost unwatchable scene where Zach chops off (Zach’s version of surgical amputation) not one but two of Martin’s toes.  Not only that, but Wheatley extends the scene by having Zach perform three extra chops with his axe, the first three being misses.  Then there is the stitching of Daniel’s injured foot with a big gaping hole and his screams after alcohol is poured on the wound.

IN THE EARTH was filmed under the Covid-19 third wave.  The virus also enters the storyline as the protagonist has to be quarantined from an unknown virus, similar to theCorona CoronaVirus.  The closing credits inform that the film was made under special Covid-19 supervision from proper authorities, credit to Wheatley.  To his credit as well, his cast is generally non-white with a strong female element.  The female, Alma in the film gets to save the day and does all the fighting at the climax instead of being the damsel in distress in most films.

There is much difference between IN THE EARTH and Wheatley’s last movie, the Hitchcock remake (though Wheatley refuses to call it a remake), REBECCA.  REBECCA is mostly interiors while IN THE EARTH is shot outdoors in a wooded area an hour outside London.  Surprisingly, IN THE EARTH has more suspense than REBECCA.

The film opens in theatres where allowed, April 9th.

Trailer: 

KENNY SCHARF: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (USA 2020) ***
Directed by Malia Scharf and Max Basch

KENNY SCHARF: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE is an intimate portrait of American artist Kenny Scharf, whose unique brand of "pop-surrealism" made him a 1980s art star.

Kenny Scharf, born November 23, 1958, still alive today, is an American painter known for his participation in New York City's interdisciplinary East Village art scene during the 1980s, alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.   Along with friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf grew from a graffiti artist into a major force in the 1980s NYC art scene. Obsessed with garbage, cartoons, and plastic, Scarf, with his playful Peter Pan’s roller coaster career flourished despite the decimation of the AIDS crisis and the fickle tastes of the art world.  From street art to museums, Scharf continues to create colourful and complex work that puts him at the forefront of where popular culture meets fine art.  

Scharf's do-it-yourself practice spanned painting, sculpture, fashion, video, performance art, and street art.  Growing up in post-World War II Southern California, Scharf was fascinated by television and the futuristic promise of modern design.  His works often include pop culture icons, such as the Flintstones and the Jetsons, or caricatures of middle-class Americans in an apocalyptic science fiction setting.  Unfortunately, Scharf’s contemporaries are dead, Basquiat at 27 and Haring, his soul-mate at 31.  This doc benefits from the fact that Scharf is still alive.  Still at a ripe age and alert mentally, he talks to the camera of his past and of the present.

The doc also shows Scharf at work producing his masterpieces  But as the artist himself admits at the start of the film: he just does it; no planning.  He mixes everything, whatever comes out of his head.  It is therefore of no surprise that he is obsessed with collecting trash.  When he was living with his true love in a remote part of Brazil away from everyone with no electricity, he would collect trash from the sea and turn it into trash sculptures.  As Scharf sees faces in everything, there are always eyes embedded in most of his abstract paintings.

Though he gained fame in the 80’s there is no information on his use of drugs.  So one can assume if he did any, it was under control as Scharf had no addiction problems.

Every artist has a downfall in life.  In fact every person artist or non-artists do.  Scahrf’s downfall was the period where his artwork went out of style.  He was not a businessman and could do nothing else.  His family suffered from poverty during those times.

The doc benefits from an impressive list of interviewees that say their two cents worth on Scharf.  These include Yoko Ono, Kaws and from archive footage Haring and Basquiat.  There is footage of Scarf with Andy Warhol as well.

Scharf is as playful now as he was in his youth, “Many people think I am ok,” he says.  “I think I am ok.”  Spanning the 80’s from the Vietnam war to the nuclear war to AIDs, the doc represents a good portion of the history of American as experienced through the art and mind of Kenny Scharf.

Trailer:  

THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY (Canada 2019) **

Directed by Craig Pryce

The long synopsis of THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY from the film’s press notes reads:  Based on a true story, this entertaining and informative film took place in 1972.  It’s about an outlandish study on the effects of marijuana on young women.  This film centres around five young women who shared a common goal: to make some money and have a fresh start in life.  It began as fun, like Hippie camp, and many of the young women thrived and at their given tasks despite their “toke times”.  The scientists, frustrated and surprised with the women’s motivation, decided to give them ever-increasing THC levels. This didn’t stop most of the women’s productivity until many became zombified by the excessive doses.  The girls used their unique strengths, resilience and friendship in order to overcome this extreme adversity.  To this day, the women still do not know the results.  They deserve their story to be told, and they deserve answers.

Several factors have taken out the bite of this fictionalized account of what could have been a documentary.  The most important is the fact that the film is dated and that marijuana is already legalized in Canada, where the film is set, which is largely in Toronto.  So, the effects of the drug are already very well known and despite the common knowledge that marijuana will relieve pain and make one high, there are no other unknown or insightful effects to be made known.  The question posed at the beginning of the film: “Is marijuana harmful or not?’” would therefore fall on deaf ears.  With so many young women as subjects, director Pryce serves as the role of a traffic cop of who comes next in the picture.  It is also difficult to sympathize with women that take part in the experiment for the sole purpose of making money.  Most important of all is that the results of the experiment were not made known then, is not known now and for that reason, is not made known or speculated in the film.  The film runs two hours - a  boring trudge through the dated material on subjects the audience feels little emotion about.

Director Pryce, who also wrote the script inserts anti-feminist issues, black and LGBT discrimination into his film.  One of the experiment’s subjects is black and she has a romantic relationship with a white.  She gets upset when unable to find a record of her choice in a store is told that the store keeps coloured music in stock for poor demand, the store clerk explaining that it is a question of supply and demand.  The other is a nurse who is outed.

The experiment lasts a full 98 days, and the film after a 30 minute introduction starts off with Day 1, leading to the 98th day.

THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY is a history lesson that could be missed without dire consequences.

The film is available VOD/Digital April the 20th.

Trailer:

 

Trailer: 

THE VIOLENT HEART (USA 2020) ***
Directed by Karen Sanga


THE VIOLENT HEART refers to the heart of the protagonist Daniel (Jovan Adepo).  As a child, he witnessed the killing of his elder sister.  He first saw her taking a suitcase and entering a car with a man.  Later in the woods, the car is driven away and the sister left for dead.  The murder was never solved.  The trauma led to Daniel being violent in a school fight, blinding one eye of his schoolmate.  This gives Daniel a criminal record which haunts him for the years after.  The story provides him a way out by joining the marines, like his father.  He  meets a girl Cassie (Grace Van patten).  They fall into a Romeo and Juliet type romance.

Grace Van patten looks too old to play an 18-year old high school student.  Checking her age on Wikipedia, she is 24 and the 6 year age difference shows.  The chemistry between the two lovers needs a bit of believing.  The reason for Cassie's attraction to Daniel is never made clear.  In the press notes, the attraction is stated to come from the opposites of both their lives.  Cassie has the perfect but claustrophobic lifestyle while Daniel’s is open but imperfect, him haunted by a traumatic past.  

Director Sanga’s film takes a while before getting its footing.  The beginning is a bit confusing though Sanga clears the doubts eventually.  It helps that the film unfolds in chronological order. The film picks up after the first third when the audience can see what director Sanga is trying to do with his characters.  As the mystery of Daniel’s sister unravels the film, fortunately it becomes more interesting.  One can probably predict the outcome of this doomed romance, which will not be revealed in this review.

More mystery is added with Cassie's father who she thinks is having an affair unknown to her mother.  A good play in the script has her with conflicting interests of respect and fear of her father.  The father has a hidden skeleton in his closet but he explains the rationality of his actions.    The film stresses the importance of family.  Daniel looks after his mother and little brother while respecting his father in the marines.  Cassie’s father protects her family as well.

It helps the story that the script pays attention to the supporting characters.  Daniel’s younger brother, Aaron (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) has inferiority complex issues with his mother (Mary J. Blige in a welcome role) thinking himself less important than Daniel.  When he turns violent in a fight in the classroom, Daniel makes his say in the film’s most dramatic scene.

Relative unknown actors Adepo and Van Patten perform their roles impressively, despite the lack of chemistry.  The chemistry is deterred too by the couple being inter-racial, even though films tend to be more liberal these days.

Director Sanga takes the film’s inspiration from Nicholas Ray’s REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and Douglas Sirk’s MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION.  Though not bad, THE VIOLENT HEART never reaches those heights.

THE VIOLENT HEART is available VID/digital on April the 13th.

Trailer: 

 

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