Cargo (2017)


Floating in the big blue.

(2017) Drama (Best Ever Film) Warren Brown, Gessica Geneus, Omar J. Dorsey, Persia White, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Jamie Donnelly, Sky Nicole Grey, Jason Elwood Hanna, Dana J. Ferguson. Directed by Kareem Mortimer

Film production is pretty much global these days and that’s a welcome development. Points of view vary from place to place and it is always wonderful to get the perspective of people who live in different places. Cargo is the most ambitious film to come out of the Bahamas and it made it’s world premiere right here in Florida at the Miami Film Festival.

In the movie, Kevin (Brown) is an American ex-pat living in the islands after leaving the States under somewhat dark and mysterious circumstances – and if you’re going to flee a dark past, the Bahamas are an excellent place to do that. However, no matter how far you run from your problems, you generally bring the cause of them – yourself – with you and even in this island paradise Kevin, a gambling addict, has found it difficult to make a new start.

His wife Berneice (White) has essentially given up on him. She’s tired of the promises and the excuses as to why things aren’t working out. Kevin has enrolled their son in an expensive private school which he can’t afford. Berneice has also been taking care of Kevin’s mom who has severe dementia and sometimes smears her own excrement on the walls.

Kevin needs an immediate infusion of cash and gets it as he uses his boat to smuggle desperate Haitian workers to the Bahamas who will from there be taken by another boat to Miami. At first, it works out. Kevin hires a caretaker to take the burden off of Berneice. The new hire is Celianne (Geneus) who is herself an illegal immigrant from Jamaica. Also, being who he is, he embarks on an extramarital affair with a waitress at his favorite café just as things are starting to get better with his wife. There’s a storm brewing on the horizon however and things aren’t going to remain good for very much longer.

It is good seeing a slice of Bahamian life onscreen. Usually we see the island as tourists see it – a Caribbean paradise with beautiful beaches, casinos and women in skimpy bikinis. We don’t see the life that ordinary Bahamians lead and for giving us that glimpse the filmmakers are to be commended.

In many ways this is an ambitious film as Mortimer is not only looking at the effects of human smuggling but on the effects of immigration in the Bahamas as well and in many ways that muddles up the story. I think he would have been better served to focus more on Kevin and the effects of human smuggling on the smuggler – that is a storyline not often seen in the movies and would have made for a much more riveting experience, but adding subplots and extraneous characters only serves to bloat the film unnecessarily.

The acting is not up to the standards of a Hollywood film in many ways. Brown as Kevin is occasionally a bit flat; what the character is feeling is not conveyed as effectively as it might be. Kevin is always saying “I’m going to fix this,” to the point that it becomes kind of a mantra that even he doesn’t really believe; it’s more a way of deflecting Berniece’s constant nagging and condescending, cutting remarks. It is the curse of men to believe that everything can actually be fixed.

The movie is visually beautiful. There are few places on Earth so visually congenial as the Bahamas and the filmmakers make full use of that congeniality. There is something of the timeless in the Bahamas; often you will hear the phrase “island time” in connection with the Caribbean islands. It is a declaration that nothing is so important that it must be seen to immediately. Things happen at their own pace in the islands and there is a certain style in that. You get that the film is on island time in many ways and those who are less patient will have a hard time with this film.

This is definitely the product of people who are making a first stab at things. That gives this film a bit more of a pass than I would give to a Hollywood film that carries the same issues. I hope that Mortimer makes more films and that they improve with each one. I hope that he and others like him kickstarts a vibrant Bahamian film industry. As far as I’m concerned, the world can use that.

REASONS TO GO: There are some beautiful images. Nice to see a slice of Bahamian life onscreen.
REASONS TO STAY: Too many characters and too much story; some of the plotlines should have been eliminated. The acting is on the wooden side. The movie feels like it’s going on too long.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some nudity and sexuality as well as a bit of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Mortimer’s interest in human smuggling came when he was a boy and news footage of Haitian migrants trying to make it to Florida whose bodies washed up on shore in the Bahamas stayed with him. He recreated the scene for the opening of the movie.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/12/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Better Life
FINAL RATING: 4.5/10
NEXT: Sleepless

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Choke


Choke

Sam Rockwell ponders his next role.

(Fox Searchlight) Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke, Kelly Macdonald, Paz de la Huerta, Bijou Phillips, Gillian Jacobs, Clark Gregg, Joel Grey. Directed by Clark Gregg

Author Chuck Palahniuk is best known for the film adapted from his novel, Fight Club. And since rule number one of Fight Club is that we don’t talk about Fight Club, we’ll just have to talk about the second novel of his to be adapted to the film medium.

Victor Mancini (Rockwell) is a sex addict. He attends regular sessions of Sex Addicts Anonymous when he isn’t working his day job as a historical re-enactor for Colonial Williamsburg. He is trying to make ends meet while keeping his mother Ida (Huston) in an expensive medical facility. Never stable to begin with, she has become increasingly more deranged as time goes by. Victor also supplements his income by deliberately choking in high class restaurants and allowing himself to be saved by wealthy diners who then become patrons, as it were.

Victor’s best friend Denny (Henke) also works with him as a re-enactor and has problems connecting with women. Victor has no such problems; he is continually establishing brief and more or less meaningless sexual relationships with women who are more or less interested in the same. However, his life is turned upside down when his mother in a rare lucid moment, confesses that she lied to him about the identity of his true birth father. Victor enlists the aid of a sympathetic attending physician, Dr. Paige Marshall (Macdonald) to assist him to find out from his mother where the hidden identity of his father might be, but he doesn’t count on forming a bond with the good doctor that might just be the key to something more lasting for him. However, when you have a situation where two people continually bend the truth to their own specifications, can they really form a relationship that will endure?

Actor/director Gregg also adapted the source material for the screen, and an ambitious undertaking it was, too. The original Palahniuk novel is densely plotted, with a complicated plot that doesn’t really lend itself to a 90 minute movie. Still, Gregg gives it a game effort and if he doesn’t succeed in every instance, at least you’ve gotta give him an “A” for effort.

Rockwell is the centerpiece here, a genetically unlikable sort who has a wisecrack for every occasion and lives for his next bit of poontang. His name has appeared regularly on the pages of Cinema365 in movies like Snow Angels and Everybody’s Fine and he seems to be willing to tackle offbeat roles of the sort that have been the exclusive hunting ground of guys like Christopher Walken and John Malkovich. Less mannered than either, there is a curious everyman quality to Rockwell even as he tackles roles that are far from every man. Huston is one of those actresses who is often overlooked for some odd reason but in nearly every movie she is in, she shines and she certainly does so here as a mom that would make Jenny Fields from The World According to Garp look like June Cleaver.

There are some very funny moments, some clever dialogue and some genuine poignancy. What we really don’t get is consistency; some of the scenes are really hit or miss and not everything works perfectly. Nonetheless, enough of it hits that it is certainly a recommendation, particularly for those who like their movies on the different side. There is a good deal of sexuality here so those who are offended by that sort of thing should just move along. Those who are not however would not be wasting their time to pick this up at the rental counter.

WHY RENT THIS: Rockwell is well on his way to becoming one of the finest actors of his generation. While Gregg gives the source material his own spin, there is enough Palahniuk to make this worthwhile.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie is often scattershot in an effort to blend the complex elements of the novel into a single, focused film.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a lot of sex, nudity and language so bluenoses beware!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Book author Chuck Palahniuk cameos as the man sitting on the plane next to Victor at the end of the movie.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a conversation between Palahniuk and Gregg about the adaptation of novel to film that’s a fascinating look at the process.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: 2010