Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Great movie. Does not get enough recognition.
The mystery never hooked me.
An intriguing mystery story, that's all the more intriguing because it's got a racial element, with an outstanding performance from Adolph Caesar, and a commanding presence in Howard Rollins Jr as the investigator assigned to the difficult murder case.
based on the play of the same name it focuses on a rare story about racial injustice we don't see these days in cinema
Captain Davenport (Howard E. Rollins) is the first African American officer sent from Washington D.C. to investigate the murder of another black soldier named Sergeant Waters
but considering this is taking place in 1944 Louisiana almost every white person just brushes it off
so Davenport has 3 days to wrap up this investigation or drop it altogether
the South is full of Ku Klux Klan members so it could be anyone yet as flashbacks show what Waters was really like the bigger truth unfolds
it's bad enough the racism and intolerance comes from the whites so a majority of the black soldiers have to deal with Waters' hostility and harsh discipline
the film also tackles self-negation particularly when it comes to the black-male idenity
should a black man take all the hate from his own people as much as the whites?, who decides to get to be a negro?, are blacks just as devious as whites when it comes to committing crimes?, how does the racism affect the soldiers and not just the black community?
a pretty good who dunnit story with great acting, a big twist, and lots to acknowledge about the social culture
This may be the worst Best Picture nominee of the 1980s in that it doesn't feel like it should be a theatrically released production and instead feels like a cheap television production. How sad it is that this was directed by Norman Jewison, responsible for wonderful films like Moonstruck (1987) and Agnes of God (1985), who is usually capable of turning out entertaining films full of heart and offbeat characters. The technical execution of the film is poor as the cinematography is ugly, the score is distracting and the scenes don't flow into one another. Perhaps the biggest issue with the film was that the story it focuses on was not compelling and despite being only 84 minutes the film felt so much longer.
African-African master sergeant Vernon Waters, Adolph Caesar, is murdered in 1944 and African-American officer Richard Davenport, Howard E. Rollins Jr., is brought in to investigate the case. Davenport comes up against opposition in the form of the white Captain Taylor, Dennis Lipscomb, who believes that he will not be capable of bringing the man who murdered Waters to justice due to his racial ethnicity. Davenport progresses with his investigation and interrogates several African-American soldiers who were under the command of Waters and comes to realize that Waters was self hating and very tough on his fellow African-Americans. He wants to eliminate all men who he believes do not represent his race correctly and employs questionable practices to have these men punished. Waters eventually uncovers the fact that one of the African-American soldiers is responsible for the killing and has receives praise from Taylor for his actions.
The film tries to be a slightly more complex version of Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night (1967), which Jewison also directed, as the African-American characters contend with self hate and are sometimes presented as flawed. While I was critical of that film for the lack of depth and nuance it provides to the Virgil Tibbs character I didn't necessarily feel that the way this film spoon fed us the idea Waters' self hate was driven by the racism of the white people around him was any better. Waters seem like more of a caricature than a real human being as he barks out orders and finally expresses his disgust for himself in a rambling monologue delivered to two racist white men. All of this seemed rather convenient and in many ways this character trait was employed in order to introduce some red herrings that would keep the ‘mystery' alive. The mystery itself also was not very effective as the film deliberately withholds information from us and that makes it impossible to figure out what has happened without the long flashback sequences we get when Davenport interrogates soldiers.
How poorly made the film is cannot be stated enough as it appears like a very cheap production even though it was produced on a $6 million budget and considerable talent was involved in putting it together. While I understand that most of the action takes place indoors surely there was some way to liven up the surroundings and provide some splashes of color amidst all the greens and browns. Every shot in the film is bland and monotonous as it never feels like anything has been properly staged and nothing ever pops out as illustrating the surroundings in a memorable way. Furthermore the score contributes to the feeling that this is a subpar production as it seems completely out of place with action occurring on screen and instead of increasing the impact of certain scenes it takes away from them as we are distracted from the drama by the loud twanging country music blaring in the background. Russell Boyd and Herbie Hancock are real talents who have displayed that they are capable in other areas but they failed to hit the mark with their work on this film to detrimental effect.
Other films that came out in 1984 that would have been more deserving of a Best Picture nomination include Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Birdy (1984), The Bostonians (1984) and Choose Me (1984). Unfortunately this slot went to a film like this which has been forgotten for good reason as nothing about it is worth remembering.
It took on some important race issues and based it around a WW2 Army segregation.
Beneath the intrigue of a mysterious murder, many complex themes are handled deftly and often humorously. The stellar performance of Howard E. Rollins, Jr. is enhanced by sensational character actors.
Many provocative issues are raised. (e.g., "Who gave you the right to decide who's fit to be a Negro?")
Patti LaBellle is sensational.
Powerfully acted through and through, aided by Jewison's usual sense of propulsion and righteous energy. A bit hammy at times, but the characters are fleshed out enough that the movie remains grounded even when its most obviously a stage drama.
Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning ''Soldier's Play'' is adapted into an unsettling whodunit that soon reveals to be a provoking suspense military drama delving into the heart of the psychopathology of black racism.
I don't really get into military films. However, it isn't often you see one based on the stories about men of color in the military. The film "A Soliders Life," doesnt focus on stories of war against countries. Instead the film focuses on the age old war of black vs black. This battle is as old as slavery itself. A battle of African Americans fighting to be seen as eqauls in the eyes of the white man, and the resulting self-hatered that has grown like a cancer amongst us for centuries.