BLONDE. purple


Robbery, assault and battery.

(2021) Crime Drama (1091) Julian Moore-Cook, Ellie Bindman, Adam J. Bernard, Jennifer Lee Moon, Jessica Murrain, Roger Ajogbe, Andy Chaplin, Joe Gallina, Nicholas Grey, Daniel Jordan, Jennifer Lee Moon, Emily Swain, Richard Sandling, Jess Radomska, Stella Taylor, Oliver Silver, Al Gregg, David Ngara-O’Dwyer, Ryan Molloy, Martin Smith, Thomasin Lockwood. Directed by Marcus Flemmings

When things are going well, everybody tends to be generous and kindly. It is when things are exploding in our face that our true characters tend to emerge. Nothing explodes in the face quite like a bank robbery gone sideways.

And that is exactly what’s happened to Wyatt (Moore-Cook), a man who requires an immediate infusion of cash that is talked into doing something he’s never done before – rob a bank. His more experienced partner, Nath (Bernard), has been shot and taken to the hospital. Wyatt is left with a teenage girl Maddison (Bindman) as a hostage and a hostage negotiator (Gray) who might be the least suited for the job in the history of law enforcement.

In the two hours or so of the film’s run time, we get to meet these characters and others in their orbit. We find out that other members of the crew, like the hot-tempered Ant (Sandling), dropped out of the heist before it even began. We meet femme fatale Saida (Moon). And through it all, we see how Wyatt got into a situation that is so far over his head that it might as well be Mt. Everest.

Flemmings, whose last film Six Rounds (which Bernard starred in) showed immense promise, improves on that film here. The dialogue is far better, a quantum leap in fact. There is a noir-ish quality to it that is tantalizing. His eye for casting talented unknowns continues, as Moore-Cook and Bindman both shine. Bernard, who continues to impress, is a scene-stealer in a supporting role that you won’t soon forget. He’s an actor with the presence to carry franchise-level pictures, mark my words.

The drawback here is in the pacing and the editing. The film bounces around with a cornucopia of flashbacks which from time to time interrupt the momentum the film is building. This sort of thing can be frustrating to a viewer and as a critic, I tend to advocate simple storytelling devices to young filmmakers. Too many flashbacks can spoil a film like too much salt can spoil an entrée. Also, the movie is set in America, but the cast is British and it was filmed there. While I get the sense that Flemmings was trying to make a comment on American racial relations (a prologue Montage shows incendiary moments in American racial tension, from the Civil Rights era right up through the marches of Black Lives Matter), but there are too many English accents to make the movie believable as American-set. However, there is a killer soundtrack of classic R&B and retro-soul that is absolutely perfect for the film’s atmosphere.

In general, though, this is a movie that has a good deal going for it. Flemmings’ movies tend to be intelligent and thought-provoking which is a commodity that should be encouraged in any filmmaker. The good news is that this movie isn’t a step backwards for Flemmings; he’s moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if his next movie made a serious impact on the independent movie scene. No pressure, right?

REASONS TO SEE: The soundtrack is essential.
REASONS TO AVOID: The edit could have been a bit tighter (loses steam when it bounces around to various elements).
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In addition to being a film director, the London-born Flemmings has also been a fashion photographer.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/14/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dog Day Afternoon
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
Set!

Six Rounds


Rob Peacock and Adam Bernard look like they might go a round of their own.

(2017) Drama (TMP) Adam J. Bernard, Phoebe Torrance, Santino Zicchi, Rob Peacock, Daniel Johns, Joseph Warner, Chris Rochester, Marcus Adjmul, Lesley Molony, Carolyn English, Thomasin Lockwood, Karishma Bhandari. Directed by Marcus Flemmings

 

Sometimes you run into a movie whose reach exceeds its grasp. You can tell that the filmmakers have ambitions to make something special, something unique and you root for them to do so but it doesn’t quite succeed as much as either filmmaker or viewer would like.

Set against the backdrop of the 2011 London riots (or as they are known in the myopic U.S.A. “Oh, were there riots in London in 2011?”) the prime mover here is a young black man. Stally (Bernard) is a boxer who has retired with an undefeated record, a fact he is extraordinarily proud of. He has escaped the crime-ridden neighborhood of his youth and has a real job and a beautiful white girlfriend Andrea (Torrance) whom he has nicknamed “Mermaid” because of a dress she once wore that made her appear like one. She loves him and is proud that he has bettered himself and is beginning to think about having a child with him.

One of Stally’s mates from the old days, Chris (Zicchi) has gone and done something extraordinarily stupid; he’s stolen drugs from George (Johns), Stally’s ex-manager who is in his spare time a mob boss. George wants Chris dead and reckless Chris is too proud to get himself out of the jam he’s in. Stally talks to George who gives Chris a way out; to engage in a boxing match with Stally. If Chris can last six rounds without being knocked out, he’s off the hook. The trouble is that if Chris does lose the match, there goes Stally’s undefeated record and that’s not something Stally is willing to give up easily.

The movie is mostly shot in black and white (with a few brief scenes in color, mostly when Andrea is around) and looks beautiful, the juxtaposition of black and white mirroring the commentary on racial relations in the UK. The movie is not really a boxing film and it isn’t really about the riots although the chaos is clearly on the mind of all of the characters involved. We see some footage of rioters (and I’m thinking some archival footage) but none of the main characters participate in them onscreen. Some brag about getting a “100% discount” from looting trainers or fur coats from various stores.

Bernard, who was the stunt double for John Boyega in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, proves himself an able actor. He is subtle when he needs to be, understated when he needs to be and is capable of a fine primal scream when he needs it. There has been a parade of fine actors of color from the UK lately; Bernard may well be as talented as any of them.

Torrance has kind of a thankless role but she has the ethereal beauty of a Keira Knightley and reminds me of her in her line delivery as well. She is another actor in this production who shows some immense promise; Flemmings has a great eye for talent to say the least.

I think he wanted to make a movie that is outside the box; intelligent (and it is) and innovative (which it isn’t). In fact, I think he tried a little bit too hard; some of the scenes seem to be, as MGM used to put it, art for art’s sake and sometimes at the expense of the film. It looks beautiful, it’s acted well but the dialogue sounds a bit false. Worse, the use of handheld cameras during the boxing sequences (the film is divided into rounds corresponding to the boxing match between Chris and Stally) make those scenes incredibly hard to watch without feeling a little vertigo. I wish he had taken it easier on the handhelds as much of the rest of the film is beautifully shot.

Much of the movie is to my reckoning Stally’s internal monologue; during fights he uses poetry to center himself and I believe that the rest of the action is meant to be taken as what Stally is thinking about during the course of the match (I could be wrong on this point). It’s a brilliant idea but it isn’t executed as well as it might be.

Flemmings shows some natural talent in putting this film together on a microscopic budget. Sadly it isn’t as successful for me and I have a hard time recommending it for all but serious film buffs looking for new talents before anyone else has discovered them. The storytelling could have used a little bit of tweaking but despite my rating, he really isn’t far away from creating a movie that will knock the socks off of the whole bloody world. I look forward to that film with great anticipation.

REASONS TO GO: Some of the performances are pretty feral. Torrance reminded me a bit of Keira Knightley.
REASONS TO STAY: The story gets a little bit confusing. The boxing scenes utilize the shaky-cam to the point of being nearly unwatchable. The dialogue is a little too repetitive.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity and a bit of violence both in the ring and outside of it.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was made for a mere £7000, or just under $9000 US.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/20/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Bronx Bull
FINAL RATING: 4.5/10
NEXT: The Lost City of Z