Shade is a thoroughly stylish film. It has an atmosphere which is rich with tension and moves along at a pace which is quick yet still gentle and natural. As the story elements unfold there are a lot of haracters to keep up with, but the atmosphere of the film is rich and it keeps the story consistently engaging. It makes up for a many of the flaws in the narrative, although there are many that still remain. The most predominant issue is the film's poor balance between simplicity and complexity. The film itself is simple because it stays on the path of a story which is very character driven and focused on a lot of small elements about the crime world and the game of poker, but in the process it has to deal with a lot of characters. The narrative tends to remain focused in its intentions, but it has a lot of them. It is an ambitious project which is packed to the brim with many complex characters, and in the process it becomes a challenge to keep up with all of them. Shade incures many subplots which are not all as enthralling as the central premise, and even then they mostly all relate to the game of poker in one way or another. But even then the issue is that it is repetitive. The entire film is largely a series of poker games and other minor crime related subplots, many of which are familiar and some of which are not, and there is little more to it than that. The screenplay of Shade gives the film some interesting characters and a lot of strong dialogue, but the true extent of appeal that it can reach is limited due to the simplistic story coupled with the complex narrative structure. Shade is a film which is simple and complex in its own ways, and it has a certain level of charm to it, so it works as a character driven and small scale piece. It doesn't work as much more or much less, but it is good for what it is.
Shade serves as a fine directorial debut. For his debut piece and only film to date, he does a good job harnessing the simple nature of the material and keeping it fairly consistently interesting. The surplus of characters and slow pace may weigh it down, but as a debut piece it is a fine piece of work for him. The best thing that he brings to Shade a sense of style. Everything in Shade looks legitimate thanks to good locations and production design set up which gives the film a sense of colour yet without interfering with the tense crime atmosphere of it all. Everything is shot with great cinematography as well which captures everything nicely, ranging from the etiquette details of the imagery in the film to the facial expressions of the actors. The stylish nature of Shade gives it a bit of a neo-noir feeling to it, and although it my be a bit more focused on style than on perfecting a story, a lot of the imagery in Shade is good looking and memorable enough to make up for many of the narrative flaws.
Like I said, Shade is a very character focused film. And so a lot of the success in it is predicated on what the cast can do with it. And thanks to the natural charm of each actor, they all successfully manage to pull through.
Stuart Townsend brings a sense of naive youthful charisma to his role. Surrounded by other characters who are much more experienced in the art of crime, Stuart Townsend plays the role of Vernon with great strength. The role requires him to put his natural charisma into the part, and that is exactly what he does because he keeps himself involved in the story as it develops and progresses. His effort is a most welcome one which proves how well he can work with simple and sophisticated material.
It is interesting to see Jamie Foxx in Shade. A lot of his performances capitalise on his ability to act smooth and confident under stressful situations, yet Shade plays that into the downfall of his character. His overconfidence is his weakness, and considering the egotistican nature of the character Larry Jennings, Jamie Foxx is easily able to get the right level of dramatic charisma for the role. His efforts in the film are welcome as his line delivery and physical reactions to the plot dynamics all come to him with ease.
Gabriel Byrne is also a welcome presence. Considering his legacy for gangster movies, ranging from his experiences in Miller's Crossing to The Usual Suspects, it is a welcome return to form to witness him back in a character oriented crime film. In the part of Charlie Miller, Gabriel Byrne easily puts a sense of wisdom into his role by standing confident in the part and not letting anything get him off guard. Gabriel Byrne seems ready for anything in Shade and stays consistent in the character from start to finish, so his effort is a genial one.
Sylvester Stallone makies a fine antagonist in Shade. In the role of The Dean, Sylvester Stallone goes back to the most simple character elements which are required for the part and it gives him a sense of brooding confidence. He stands strong in the part and remains appropriately subtle with a certain level of wisdom in his line delivery which makes him an intriguing character. His screen time is small, but his performance is easily memorable as it is one of hte most restrained performances he has given in a long time, so he adds to the large cast of Shade very well, and the way he interacts with the surrounding cast members is very clever.
Thandie Newton delivers a decent supporting effort as well with a lot of strong chemistry with the other characters, and Melanie Griffith does her part.
So Shade is a slow paced film with a simple premise, a repetitive story and a lot of characters to keep up with. But the stylish look of the tale and performances of the cast do their effort to keep it intriguing.
Very dry and uninvolving...Doublecrosses galore and the pacing on this one just fat out stinkds!