FlixChatter Review – SWEET GIRL(2021)

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Jason Momoa is trying to establish himself as the next big action star in Hollywood but apart from his role as Aquaman in the DCEU, he hasn’t found much success. After appearing in several TV series early in his career, he landed a big title role in the remake of Conan the Barbarian, but that film was a colossal failure and tainted his rise to action stardom. He’s back on the screen again with an action movie that will end up on my list of one the worst films of the year.

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Ray Cooper (Momoa) and his wife Amanda (Adria Arjona) are living a simple life and raising their young daughter Rachel (Isabela Merced). One day, Amanda became sick and a doctor notified Ray that she has cancer. Hoping to save her with an experimental drug, the doctor assured Ray that Amanda will be one of the first cancer patients to be able to take the medicine. But suddenly the CEO of the drug company BioPrime, Simon (Justin Bartha), decided to pull the drug off the market. Once Amanda passed, Ray aimed his rage at Simon and his giant pharmaceutical company. Months later, a journalist who’s investigating BioPrime contacted Ray and wants to partner up and take down the evil company. Once Ray met up with the journalist, he was attacked by a hitman named Amos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). Badly injured, Ray and Rachel must leave town and try to stay alive and keep ahead from the assassins that’s been sent to eliminate them both.

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The screenplay is credited to Gregg Hurwitz and Phillip Eisner. They sort of hit you over the head too much with the theme of an average person trying to survive in our current healthcare system here in the States. Since this is supposed to be an action thriller, the film is basically a long chase. That would’ve been okay with me since I was along for the ride but about a third into the film, the writers decided to include one the most ridiculous plot twist I’ve ever seen. I not going to reveal what that twist is but any credibility the film has up until then, it went right out the window after that scene was revealed.

I’ve seen my shares of ridiculousness in action films, and I can tolerate many of them. I accepted the fact that Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt can hang from airplane/helicopter and escape from explosions without breaking any bones in his body. Or Jason Bourne was involved in so many car clashes and yet he’s still able to walk away from those dangerous scenarios without a scratch. But those films were set in an alternate reality of action pictures, this film tried to make us believe it’s set in the real world and it’s so serious about it, too.

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Director Brian Andrew Mendoza didn’t really do much to elevate the script for the screen. He and his cinematographer shot a lackluster looking film. Mendoza also seems to be stuck living the 2000s since he shot the action scenes with the terrible shaky cam and up-close style that was popular in that decade.

Momoa really poured in heart and soul into this silly movie, and I guess it’s the only reason that I didn’t give this film a zero rating. He tried to be an everyman type of action hero, but it’s hard to believe that someone who stands 6’4 and builds like an actual superhero can be an average person. But at least he tried. This is the first time I’ve seen Merced on the screen, and she played the annoying teenager to perfection. Garcia-Rulfo is pretty good as the relentless hitman that’s pursuing our heroes. I was hoping for good mano-a-mano fight between him and Ray for the climax, but that scenario never happened because of the stupid twist.

I know Netflix has churned out many bad action films throughout the years, heck I’ve seen quite a bit of them. But this one might be the worse one yet. I would highly recommend you avoid this film at all costs.

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So have you seen Netflix’s SWEET GIRL? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

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Back in 2016, Warner Bros. was trying to catch up to Disney/Marvel’s superhero films by creating the DCEU and Suicide Squad was one of the many films they scheduled to be part of that canon. When the film hit theaters in summer of 2016, it was a financial success, but met with terrible reviews by critics and most DC fans dismissed it. Now five years later, the DCEU is in kind of a mess. So, Warner Bros. decided to bring in writer/director James Gunn for a redo of the same film. Ignoring the previous version, Gunn aimed for livelier take on the lesser villains in the DC world by including graphic violence, vulgar language and stay as true to its comic book form as much as possible.

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Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) represents American interests around the globe, and she’s being tasked by her bosses to take control of a South American Island called Corto Maltese (fans of Tim Burton’s Batman will recognize that name) from the military leaders that overthrew the country. There’s a prison structure known as Jotunheim, which contains the mysterious “Project Starfish” and Waller doesn’t want Corto Maltese’s newly named president Luna (Juan Diego Botto) and his right hand man General Mateo Suarez (Joaquín Cosio) to take control of it. 

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To do this, Waller restarts the Task Force X program and assembled a new Suicide Squad for action, including T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Savant (Michael Rooker), Javelin (Flula Borg), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Weasel, a grotesque creature ready to hit the beaches of Corto Maltese and take the island. The leader of the group is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). Once they landed on the shores of Corto Maltese, Flag and his retag of would-be heroes were attacked. Unbeknownst to Flag, Waller sent another group of Suicide Squad that consist of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) to another part of the island and Flag’s team was a decoy. Waller directed Bloodsport and his team to find The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a scientist who can provide access to Jotunheim. But the team struggles to work together, finding egos clashing and violent tendencies getting in the way of any plans and turning Corto Maltese into a war zone.

Written and directed by James Gunn, the film is full of graphic violence, foul language and probably the most comic book-ish looking of any DC or Marvel films that I’ve seen. The plot is generic, but he was able to give enough screen time of each of the characters for the audience to care about and some of the dialogs were hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I laughed this much watching a movie. Gunn and his cinematographer Henry Braham decided to shoot the film with Red IMAX certified cameras, and it looks spectacular.

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I enjoyed all the performances by the actors. Robbie looked like she had a great time playing Harley Quinn again. I love the bickering between Elba’s Bloodsport and Cena’s Peacemaker; the two alpha males always tried to better one another. Dastmalchian appeared in a lot of movies and TV shows as a minor character, but he got a lot of screen time here and his Polka-Dot Man is kind of sympathetic character. Melchior has some good moments with Bloodsport, who became a father figure to her. And the gag throughout the film about Bloodsport’s fear of rats is hilarious to me. As with many superhero or action films, the villains were pretty weak here. I think they should’ve made Capaldi’s The Thinker into a more sinister character and have him be the main villain. He didn’t really have much to do and by time we find out what Project Starfish was about, he’s out of the picture.

I don’t know where things are when it comes to the DCEU but if they decided to make another Suicide Squad or Justice League film, I want Gunn to be the man in charge. I had a lot of fun with this film and hopefully we get to see more hard R-rated super hero films like this in the future. 

4/5 stars

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So have you seen THE SUICIDE SQUAD? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

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The John Wick films has started a new trend in Hollywood action films. Gone are the awful shaky cam, fast editing and up-close shots during action scenes. Now we get to see careful and well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat and shootout scenes. I definitely prefer this new style of action sequences since I can’t stand the shaky cam/fast editing style of the 2000s. The downside of this new trend is that many the recent action films seem to look the same and it gets kind of boring when most action films start to imitate one another. The newest John Wick clone is called Gunpowder Milkshake from Netflix.

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Sam (Karen Gillan) is a super assassin working for an underworld organization called The Firm. On her new mission, her boss Nathan (Paul Giamatti) tasked her with retrieving money that was stolen from The Firm by an ex-employee. But the mission goes awry when she shoots the ex-employee, discovering that he needs the money to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman) from some nasty men. Making things even more complicated is that on her previous mission, Sam accidentally killed the only son of The Firm’s competitor, McAlester (Ralph Ineson). McAlester wants Sam’s head and orders his men to hunt her down. So, to avoid a full out war with another powerful firm, Nathan decided to betray Sam and let McAlester and his men take her out.

Of course, Sam won’t go down without a fight since she decided to take Emily under her wings and will need help from her mom Scarlet (Lena Headey), who abandon her when she was very young. Also, along for the ride are Scarlet’s old friends Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Mathilde (Carla Gugino). Now the women must use all of their skills to defend themselves against the army of McAlester’s men and also aiming to take down The Firm.

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The script is credited to Ehud Lavski and Navot Papushado, the latter also directed the picture. The story is pretty straightforward, sprinkle in some female empowerment theme and a little bit of parent and child reconciliation. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in other action films, but I did think they should’ve beefed up the villain role. We get a little bit of sense that McAlester is a nasty individual, but we don’t really get to see his true nature. Papushado decided to give the film a comic book style and included some fun action sequences including a car chase in parking ramp and fight/shootout scene in a clinic. Since it’s a John Wick clone, the action scenes were quite brutal, so you’ll see heads gets blown off and limps gets torn apart.

I enjoyed all the performances by the main veteran actors but the one really standout performance belongs to the young and adorable Chloe Coleman. She’s the only innocence person in the entire film and the good guys will do everything to protect her. Gillan whose 5’11 frame is very believable as an action hero and she looked to have a fun time here beating up several men and shoots them in the head. The more senior ladies also looked like they had a great time doing complex fight scenes and shootouts. While he might be on the screen for only a few minutes, Giamatti was also good the caring father figure type but also a business man who has to protect The Firm at all cost. The only disappointment here is Ineson, he’s supposed to be this over-the-top villain but he’s hardly in the movie and by the time he gets to do his evil speech to our hero, it wasn’t that impressive.

Overall, this is a fun action film that will remind you of the John Wick films. If you like those films then you’ll have good time with this one.

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So have you seen GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – INFINITE (2021)

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The last time Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up was for underwhelmed action thriller SHOOTER back in 2007. Now they’re back together and hoping to start a new sci-fi/action adventure for Paramount Pictures.

Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) has been living a tough life, he couldn’t hold a steady job because of his illness. He keeps seeing visions of people in the past that he doesn’t know and was told by doctors that he’s suffer from schizophrenic. Needing medications to calm down his visions, he decided to build a samurai sword for a local drug dealer in exchange for the meds. Unfortunately, the deal went south and Evan was arrested by the cops. While waiting in an interrogation room, a man named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) came in and starts questioning Evan about his past lives. Not knowing what’s going on and suddenly his life is in danger, came to his rescue is Mora (Sophie Cookson).

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After evading Bathurst and his men, Mora took Evan to a hidden place called The Hub. This is where Evan learns about his past lives and the ongoing war between the two rival groups of reincarnated, the Believers and Nihilists. The Believers wants to preserve lives on earth, while the Nihilists, along with its leader Bathurst, wants to destroy every living thing on this planet. Bathurst wants a dooms day device called The Egg and he believes Evan knows where that device is located. Once Evan learned about his past lives and self-defense skills, he must save the world and take down the baddies.

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The script is written by Ian Shorr and Todd Stein and it is loosely based on a book named The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz. I’ve never heard of the book before, so I don’t know how faithful the script is to the book. Reincarnation has been explored in other films, but I don’t think it’s been incorporated into a big budget action picture until now. While the story is kind of interesting and silly at times, it never tried to be original. The structure of the script is very similar to The Matrix, basically Evan and Mora are Neo and Trinity. Tasked with bringing the script to the screen is director Antoine Fuqua. The film has a sleek production design and globe-trotting locations thanks to its big budget. Although, I thought some of the visual effects looked a bit amateurish. Just like the script, Fuqua didn’t do much to elevate the visual side, for the action scenes, he borrowed a lot of elements from The Matrix, Fast & Furious series and the big showdown between Evan and Bathurst looks very similar to the climactic scene from James Bond: Die Another Day.

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When it comes to performances, Wahlberg was a total miscast here as the lead. His character was supposed to be this fish out of the water type but it’s kind of strange watching a man in his 50s just learning about his “purpose”. Chris Evans was originally cast as the hero but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Evans probably would’ve been a better choice here. Cookson didn’t do much either as the second lead, I thought her acting was sort of strange, she always had this smirking look on her face in every scene. Dylan O’Brien also has a small supporting role and was featured in the big opening action scene. The only main cast member that looked to have a good time was Ejiofor, whose villainous role was the only best thing in the film. He stole every scene he’s in and outshone the hero Wahlberg.

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Despite the flaws in this film, I did enjoy it for what it was. A silly action adventure that has some cool and thrilling action scenes. It didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes this type of genre ,but if you have Paramount + then I think it’s worth a watch. I probably would’ve been mad had I paid like $20 to see it in theater though. 

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So have you seen INFINITE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – WITHOUT REMORSE (2021)

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The journey of turning Tom Clancy’s WITHOUT REMORSE into a film was a long one. Originally, it was supposed to hit the big screen way back in holidays season of 1995. John McTiernan as attached to direct and Keanu Reeves, hot of the success of SPEED, was offered the lead role. Reeves was reportedly offered a salary of $7-10mil, pretty high for the time but he didn’t want to do back-to-back action pictures and declined the offer. Then Gary Senise, still in high demand because of his role in FORREST GUMP was attached to star as the lead and Lawrence Fishburne also signed on to be the second lead. But the production was shut down because Savoy Pictures, the studio that was producing the film, went bankrupt. In the 2000s, the late director John Singleton tried to revive the project, he was looking to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the lead, but the project never came to fruition. In the 2010s, Christopher McQuarrie was assigned to write and direct with Tom Hardy being eyed as the lead. But again, the project just couldn’t get off the ground.

Now almost 30 years later, Clancy’s second action hero (behind Jack Ryan) is finally getting his own film.

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A group of Navy SEALS is Syria trying to rescue an American prisoner, one of the SEALS named John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) feels there’s something fishy going on. He thinks that CIA operative John Ritter (Jamie Bell) is hiding something from his team. The only person that’s on his side is SEAL’s leader Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith). Despite his protests, the team did rescue the prisoner, but it turned out the bad guys weren’t Syrians but a bunch of Russians. Kelly wanted to know what’s really going on, but Ritter basically told him it’s out of his pay grade. A few months after the rescue mission, members of Kelly’s SEAL team were assassinated.  When the assassins came to kill Kelly, he was able fend them off but not before his pregnant wife was killed during the attack at his home. Filled rage and vengeance, Kelly is on a mission to find who’s behind the attack that killed his unborn child and wife.

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Loosely based on Tom Clancy’s early 90s novel, the movie has little resemblance to the novel. The only similarity was that Kelly’s wife and unborn child were killed in the beginning of the story and that’s it. The screenplay is credited to Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. By stripping away all of Clancy’s source material, there’s not much that we haven’t seen before in this kind of story. Sheridan even repeats himself here by writing a plot that’s similar to the last SICARIO film. The most sinful thing the writers commit on this script was that they didn’t include a central villain. A good action film needs a good antagonist and here we don’t really find out about the villain until the last 10 minutes of the film. And I’m pretty sure most audiences can figure out who’s really behind the attack on Kelly’s SEAL team. I don’t mind that the writers decided to come up with their own version of this story, but I thought Clancy’s novel could be adapted into a great action thriller. There’s so much material in the novel that’s still relevance in today’s world.

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Director Stefano Sollima, who directed the underwhelmed SICARIO sequel, didn’t really elevate the not-so-exiting script. His style of direction is very mundane and by the number. A story like this need someone that can inject energy into the picture. But Sollima either don’t have that kind of talent or didn’t really care to make this into an exciting action thriller. Even the big action scene was lacking creativity and excitement.

Jordan really poured his heart and soul into this role and he’s great as John Kelly. Unfortunately, his co-stars were miscast. I didn’t believe that a young-looking Jamie Bell is a seasoned CIA operative and Turner-Smith just didn’t look tough enough to be a SEAL leader. I’m glad that her character is not a romantic lead or damsel in distress, and she can take care of herself. Guy Pearce has pretty much played that same sleazy character for the last 10 years or so and again his role as the sleazy politician in this film is no different.

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Clancy’s Without Remorse is one of my favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to see film version for a long time. Despite some good talents involved in this film version, it’s an underwhelming and disappointing adaptation. If the proposed sequel Rainbow Six do happen, I hope they’ll hire a better team of writers and director.

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So have you seen WITHOUT REMORSE? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – MORTAL KOMBAT (2021)

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As a teenager back in the 1990s, I was a fan of the video game Mortal Kombat. It was the most popular game in the early 90s, then a film version came out in the summer of 1995 and it was a big success. So much so that the studio fast-tracked a sequel that would come out two years later. Unfortunately, the sequel was so bad and failed at the box office that it killed the film franchise. Now, almost 30 years later a new reboot of the franchise is hitting the big and small screens.

The story kicks off in 17th century Japan, Hanso/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) is living a quiet life with wife and children. Suddenly, assassins show up and kill his men and family. The man who’s in charge of the attack is Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). A brutal fight between Hanso and Bi-Han ensued and unfortunately Hanso was not able to defeat Bi-Han. It’s unclear why Hanso and his family were attacked, the filmmakers somehow assumed that people already know their back stories. That’s one of the many mistakes they made for this reboot.

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Fast forward to present day and we’re introduced to a has been fighter named Cole Young (Lewis Tan), he’s in an underground fight and got his butt whooped. While getting dinner with his wife and daughter at a restaurant after the fight, Sub-Zero suddenly showed up and started attacking them. Then Jax (Mehcad Brooks) came to their rescue, he instructed Cole to find Sonya (Jessica McNamee) who has the answer as to why suddenly his family’s life is in danger. Once Cole tracked down Sonya, she informed him that he’s one of the chosen fighters to defend earth from the evil lord named Shang Tsung (Chin Han) who lives in an Outworld and wants to rule our world. Sonya tells Cole that they have to find a hidden temple that house the world’s best fighters that can defend our world from the evil fighters from the Outworld. Cole agreed because he wants to save his family from danger. There’s not much else when it comes to the plot, the rest of the movie is full of bloody fights and special effects.

The screenplay is credited to Greg Russo and Dave Callahan, it’s a not bad script but not good either. By making the story more “grounded” and serious, it just took the fun out of it for me. The original 1995 film wasn’t great but at least it knows that it’s silly world they’ve created and just had fun with it. Here they tried to go all Nolan’s Dark Knight route and just didn’t work for me. Also, I thought there’s way too much fan service. I don’t mind if the filmmakers decided to include things from the source material, but this is a different medium and I expected something better from the creatives that are involved in making a film version. First time director Simon McQuoid moved things along by including brutal and bloody fights that fans of the video game will be happy to see. But narratively, he didn’t do a good job here. The movie also suffered from some very sloppy editing.

There’s not much to say when it comes to the performances. Some were cringeworthy and many were just wooden performances by the actors. The lead hero Cole is one of the weakest heroes I’ve seen in an action film. I don’t think it’s Lewis Tan’s fault since the character was so poorly written. The only stand out performance is Josh Lawson’s Kano, he’ basically the comic relief in an otherwise grim story.

Despite the shortcomings of this reboot, I still enjoyed it and of course the movie ended with tease of more sequels. Many fans of this video game are mostly in their 30s and 40s now, so I think some will enjoy it while many of us who expected more will likely be disappointed with this version. Me personally, I prefer the 1995 film version because it didn’t take itself too seriously and I had a lot of fun with it. I still think that original version is the “best” film based on video game.

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So have you seen MORTAL KOMBAT? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – Judas and The Black Messiah (2021)

The script of the life of Fred Hampton has been floating around Hollywood for many years but it never got made into a film until now. Hampton was one of the leaders of the Black Panthers movement and the youngest of the group back in the 60s and his assassination by the FBI is well known and that’s probably the reason the film of his life has had trouble making it to the screen. Maybe, because of our current political climate we’re living in now, his life story is finally being told, and I think it’s more relevant than ever.

The film starts out with an interview footage of the real Bill O’Neil in 1989 and then flashes back to 1968 when the young O’Neil (LaKeith Standfield) poses as an FBI agent to steal cars from locals in Chicago. One night, his antics got him arrested and while being held in the interrogation room, an actual FBI agent named Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) showed up and offered a chance to turn his life around. Since O’Neil likes to pretend to be someone he’s not, Michell offers him to be a mole for the FBI.

He tells O’Neil that the Black Panthers are terrorist groups, and he’s needs an inside man to be his eyes and ears in order to bring them down. Of course, O’Neil doesn’t have a choice, if he doesn’t take the deal then he goes to prison. He reluctantly accepts the offer and goes undercover and meets Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), a young charismatic leader of the Chicago Black Panthers division. Once O’Neil became part of Hampton’s group, he realized that the Black Panthers aren’t the people that Michell told him about. They’re a group that tries to give a better life to the black community in the rough part of Chicago. But because O’Neil doesn’t want to go to prison, he keeps feeding the FBI information about the Panthers’ activities that eventually led to Hampton’s assassination.

I actually watched a documentary about Hampton’s life a couple of years ago, so I knew the story and while I’m sure some of the events has been alter for dramatic purposes for this film, it’s still pretty accurate account of what happened. The screenplay is written by Will Berson and Shaka King, the latter directed the picture. It’ a well written story and I wish the actual film is longer. At only 2 hours long, I feel there’s so much we don’t know about Hampton and O’Neil and I would have liked to see more of their lives explored in the film. I’ve never seen any of King’s work but I’m very impressed with what he did with this film. The only negative thing I see here is how he depicted the FBI director Hoover (Martin Sheen in poorly prostatic makeup), he’s like a cartoonish Bond villain and I don’t think that’s very accurate.

Performances were excellent. Standfield, who I think looks a lot like a young Dave Chapelle, is very good as the conflicted person who sees the Panthers as a group of peaceful activists who wants to better the lives of black people. But he knows that he can’t back out of a deal he’d made with the FBI. Kaluuya is excellent as Hampton, a passionate man who sees himself as peacemaker but knows what the authority sees him as a threat. Dominique Fishback (who was terrific in Project Power) continues to impress me with her performance, here she plays Hampton’s lover. As mentioned earlier, I wish the film were longer, so we get to see more of their relationship. Plemons is always good, and he’s great here as the father figure to O’Neil. He uses O’Neil to impress his bosses at the FBI and also advances his career. At first, he acted like a friend to O’Neil but when he didn’t get what he wanted, he became a very nasty person who holds a lot of power.

This is probably one of the better films I’ve seen in the early part of 2021, I just wanted it to be a bit longer. I feel it’s too condensed, but it’s very well made with great performances by the lead actors.

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So have you seen Judas and the Black Messiah? Well, what did you think?