Civil Brand (2003)
Television director Neema Barnette directs the forceful drama Civil Brand, based on a story by Preston A. Whitmore II. Shot with a micro-budget of 500,000 dollars, the film stars confrontational rap and hip-hop artists Mos Def, MC Lyte, and Da Brat. The story concerns a women's prison that exploits its largely African-American inmate population as cheap labor to manufacture products for a corporation. Mostly incarcerated due to domestic violence situations, the inmates also face sexual abuse as the hands of the prison staff, headed by Captain Deese (Clifton Powell) and Warden Nelson (Reed McCants). Accused of murder, Frances Shepard (Lisa Rae) joins forces with inmates Little Momma (Lark Voorhies), Wet (Monica Calhoun), and Nikki Barnes (N'Bushe Wright), as well as law student Michael (Mos Def), in order to start an uprising. … More
- R (adult situations/language, violence)
- Drama , Action & Adventure , Mystery & Suspense , Cult Movies
- Directed By:
- Neema Barnette
- Written By:
- Preston A. Whitmore II , Joyce Renee Lewis
- In Theaters:
- Aug 29, 2003 Wide
- On DVD:
- Jan 27, 2004
- Box Office:
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Critic Reviews for Civil Brand
It's impossible to ignore the strain of misogyny that taints the movie.
It's guilty of gross B-movie meltdown, but mitigating circumstances include honest anger and a scattering of vivid scenes.
Barnette, a veteran TV director, means this as an exposť of prison abuse and exploitation, but the film is too simplistic and derivative to succeed.
Artistically, its heavy-handed clumsiness undercuts its goals.
It presents a heated-up, awkward blend of earnest outrage and down-and-dirty exploitation.
Plagued by continuity problems, ham-fisted storytelling and a problematic voiceover by Da Brat, Civil Brand feels less like a prison movie than a prison sentence.
Wildly uneven, rife with a virtual checklist of human tragedies that build to easy emotional crescendos but fail to engage the audience well enough to evoke any meaning.
This is a film about the abuses of privatization and presents a negative view of what might happen if corporate America gets control of the business of corrections.
There's way too much of the usual bonding, beatings, petty humiliation by guards, cat fights in the yard and trips to the hole.
If Civil Brand hopes to raise awareness or instigate reform, what it really needs is a greater focus on character over convention.
Hollywood still doesn?t seem to understand that just because someone can sing doesn't mean they can act. If this film doesn't prove that point, nothing will.
Women behind bars! While that's the perfect set-up for a late-night, soft-core cable movie, this flick is guilty of being nothing more than a jailhouse crock.
The movie is every bit as exploitative as the old Roger Corman babes-behind- bars flicks without having nearly as much campy fun.
After two smart acts, the film almost becomes the exploitation flick it so desperately wants to avoid.
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