THE DAY SHALL COME – movie review

IFC Films
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Chris Morris
Screenwriter: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong
Cast: Marchánt Davis, Danielle Brooks, Anna Kendrick, Denis O’Hare, Andrel McPherson
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/20/19
Opens: September 27, 2019

The Day Shall Come movie poster 12x18 - 32x48 inch

Is it possible that during the student demonstrations against the Vietnam War during the sixties, some of the youths were coaxed by the authorities to do more than burn the flag and their draft cards? Perhaps Molotov cocktails were suggested and agreed to, leading to the arrests of the young people who were flattered by the attention? Today we suffer through an endless war in Afghanistan, though student demonstrators against them are nowhere to be found. Given the relative absence of domestic terrorism, could the FBI, the CIA, the local police and other agencies, fearing a downsizing of their numbers, deliberately use overbearing ways to entrap otherwise innocent people? They could tempt them to buy or sell drugs, guns, bazookas, Molotov cocktails and the like. We are supposed to be able to resist such calls to crime, but sometimes the authorities have ways to convince you to do wrong.

Such is the case in “The Day Shall Come,” directed by Chris Morris, whose “Four Lions” in 2010 about incompetent British terrorists puts him clearly in his métier with this contribution. Though the entrapment attempts are over the top, we are told that such machinations really go on today. In the lead Moses Al Shabaz (Marchánt David), wearing a six-pointed star to symbolize his leadership of a farm community, aims to eliminate “white gentrificators” who are ejecting African-Americans from their homes. Blowing up a nearby crane is in his plans, but for now, Moses is more a pontificator than a real doer, given to swearing allegiance to Black Santa, Jesus, and Haiti’s liberator Toussaint Louverture. He hears God speaking to him through a duck, so who can be more motivated to lead an act of terrorism?

Meanwhile in an FBI office committed to trapping would-be terrorists before they can strike, the authorities under Andy (Denis O’Hare) pressure informant Reza (Kayvan Novak) into entrapping Moses, convincing him to go through with an arms deal to a neo-Nazi group (also working for the law). Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) does most of the footwork. Jesse Armstrong and Chris Morris’s script requires Moses and his accomplices—who act more like the Three Stooges than like competent terrorists—to project to us in the audience to remember that this entire film is a comedy, a satirical one that can wake us up to the shenanigans law enforcement agents go through to keep their jobs and grab promotions. While Moses’s wife Venus (Danielle Brooks) is the only normal person in the entire movie, Morris delivers the laughs, and laughing at grandiose people is the best way to take them down.

Kudos especially to Marchánt Davis whose emotional disturbances anchor the movie and its successful and outrageous notions.

87 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

THE GUILTY – movie review

THE GUILTY (Den skyldige)

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Gustav Möller
Screenwriter:  Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Cast:  Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Omar Shargaw
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/9/18
Opens: October 19, 2018
Jakob Cedergren in Den skyldige (2018)
What’s your worst computer repair nightmare?  If you’re anything like me, you need your computer.  You can’t live without it whether for work or for keeping up with your friends.  When it breaks down, you probably could not survive without a service agreement, but then, when you call for action, you’re on hold for 20 minutes, you then get a responder who gets your name and other details, you’re switched to the techie, and you wonder why the Dell or HP or Lenovo did not hire someone from Nebraska who speaks English like you and who can therefore get with the program quickly. And then, to boot, you’re disconnected.  This is the dilemma facing Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren).  It’s not that this police officer in Denmark needs a techie.  In fact things are even more hairy.  He is a desk cop assigned to emergency help, a demotion because he is himself on trial for overstepping police boundaries.  He is on the phone almost all the time, just like you with your computer repair person.  He brings his demons to the phone calls and this time in an effort to redeem himself after what he did, he oversteps boundaries once again.  Now, however, he is doing the right thing and might even get enough of a commendation to receive a mere slap on the wrist for his other alleged crime.

“The Guilty” is Denmark’s candidate for the Oscar for films opening in 2018, an unusual choice since the story is a one-man show with others thrown in, either the guy’s partners in the police precinct or voices on the phone.  In a story that obeys the three classical unities—time, space, plot all within 24 hours—Asger is so wrapped up in the panic of one caller that he voluntarily stays overtime to make sure the case is resolved.  After laughing off a caller who complains that a woman had mugged him of his cash and credit cards, Asger realizes that the fellow is in a red light district, clearly shown on the computer that the police use for immediate tracking.  He also finds little use to continue talking to someone who fell off his bike, scrapes his knee, and asks for an ambulance.  Then, everything happens.

Asger speaks with a tearful, frightened woman, Iben (Jessica Dinnage) who claims to have been kidnapped by her ex.  He is connected with the alleged kidnapper Michael (Johan Olsen), with a girl aged 6 years 9 months, Mathilde (Katinka Evers-Jahnsen) and others.  He tries to piece together the elements, horrified to find out that a baby has been killed, cut open by Michael before the kidnapping.  You may wonder why Michael would allow Iben to keep her cell phone while she is in the trunk of the kidnapper’s car, but all will become clear by the conclusion.

This is a nail-biter, unusual in that all the action takes place inside a police station with the principal character in every frame—not almost every frame, but every one, his emotions carefully filmed by Jasper Spanning under Gustav Möller’s direction, who shares the writing honors with Emil Nygaard Albertsen.  Möller, who previously contributed TV episodes to another police drama “Follow the Money” a.k.a. “Bedrag,” this time hopes that for his freshman full-length entry he can get a movie audience that does not require their thrillers to involve visceral action but rather for people who can appreciate good writing and authentic acting.  “The Guilty” could easily fit into the format of a one-man theatrical show or even a radio drama such as the kind that riveted the generation of the 1940s such as “The Shadow,” “The FBI in Peace and War,” and “The Green Hornet.”

87 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – B

WETLANDS – movie review


    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
    Grade: C
    Director:  Emanuele Della Valle
    Written by: Emanuele Della Valle
    Cast: Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje, Heather Graham, Jennifer Ehle, Anthony Mackie, Christopher McDonald, Reyna de Courcy
    Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/6/17
    Opens: September 15, 2017
    Wetlands Movie Poster
    “Wetlands” is not the only police drama cast amid the waves and sands of Atlantic City.  “Boardwalk Empire,” featuring most scenes in Atlantic City, has  TV action that is so good, with so many plots and subplots that merge easily, that it gives credence to the idea that cable is quite often better than the movies.  Atlantic City today is known as a has-been, a place once visited for getting into wheels on the boardwalk, chewing salt water taffy, and gambling in hotels that are now dilapidated, that the whole area seems to have given way to our jet age, making cross-country and intercontinental visits so alluring that New Jersey can no longer attract a tourist-hungry crowd.  At least its murky, foggy, and shoddy façade makes for detective-noir films, especially outside the three or four months that still beckon waves of visitors.

    Now, Emanuele Della Valle in his freshman expedition as writer and director, attempts an arty version of a detective tale, or at least he may think that having characters talk in low tones with only a modicum of melodrama gives the picture class.  Instead it comes off as a soporific take on people who are down on their luck, having some hope of redemption and recovery from some bad habits.  Those bad habits on display here are not only about heroin and liquor, but are the more dangerous ones: estrangement and infidelity.

    In the story Babs Johnson (Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje), a top Philadelphia cop who is caught up in corruption and drug addiction, goes to Atlantic City to try his luck with his family, namely his ex-wife Savannah (Heather Graham) and teen daughter Amy (Celeste O’Connor).  He has a lot of work to do if he wants to turn the clock back, as his daughter gives him the bird and his ex-wife, still hostile, prefers to company of a woman (Reyna de Courcy).  Wearing the badge of a detective, Babel Johnson is embraced by his new, ebullient partner, Detective Paddy Sheehan (Christopher McDonald), a lover of gambling and of life itself.  But Sheehan has a family problem as well as his wife Kate (Jennifer Ehle), a newscaster on local TV who pops pills to keep thin and youthful, is proven unfaithful.  When a local girl is found murdered, the plot turns into a whodunit, with even Babs considered a person of interest.

    The plot lurches forward in fits and starts, with Kate’s newscasts more excited about an upcoming storm that Babs’s interest in solving a murder has to take a raincheck.  Among the cast, Ms. Ehle stands out as a woman who, because of age, worries that she may be cast aside to make way for someone younger.

    Unrated.  98 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?

DRIVING WHILE BLACK – movie review


    Artist Rights Distribution
    Director:  Paul Sapiano
    Screenwriter:  Dominique Purdy, Paul Sapiano
    Cast:  Dominique Purdy, Sheila Tejada, John Mead
    Screened at: Critics link, NYC,
    Opens: February 1, 2018
    Driving While Black poster
    The best way to convince an audience of your political reviews is not to bop them over the head in your desire to proselytize.  People resist heavy-handed treatment, just as police get their dander up when suspects challenge their authority.  The best film to hit home on that score last year, “Get Out,” is perhaps the best movie of 2017 because it finds much to criticize with one large segment—the progressives, or the liberals as they used to be called—who think that they have no racism in their DNA but are effectively exposed as hypocrites.

    “Driving While Black” is itself a great title because like the Paul Sapiano’s film, it uses wordplay to impress its target audience.  Director Sapiano, whose “The Boys Guide to Getting Down” in 2011 deals with sex, drugs and bad behavior, is in his métier with this latest contribution, as he hones in on a rough section of Los Angeles whose police, whether white or black, can sometimes be as much of a problem as the gangs.  The comedy serves both to entertain and to caution those of us who think that the police can do no wrong given the extent of the criminal element. It is often flat-out hilarious.  Credit Dominique Purdy, both the principal actor and co-writer, for a movie that will inevitably be well received in early 2018.

    Dmitri (Dominique Purdy) is a typical young and hip black man who has the ghetto look—the hoodie, the baseball cap, the wtf attitude.  He does not have a threatening look, though the cops would disagree, he means well in his attempt to get a job as a Hollywood tour guide, and even has an artistic bent, using hydrochloric acid, coat hangers and a blow torch for his projects. He smokes weed (not a biggie except to the cops) and hangs out with people whose attitude toward the men and women in blue often gets them and Dmitri in trouble.

    Sapiano takes us on Dimitri’s pizza rounds and the hanging out episodes in Dimitri’s Ford Focus.  Scenes that stand out include one in which the person to whom he is to deliver pizza is under arrest in the police vehicle as the arresting officers open the box and take their free slices. They love the pepperoni, and even feed the handcuffed suspect a bite.

    The tension arises when Dimitri, on the way to an interview that would improve his life, is stopped, lined up, and insulted by police such as Officer McVitie (Peter Cilella), who is particularly racist as he received a vicious beating years back by five men.  He is certain that Officer Borty-Lio (Sheila Tejada), the only really good cop, was promoted to sergeant over the men with more experience because of affirmative action.

    The picture claims 32 festival wins and is most deserving of your time.

    Rated R.  92 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

    Story – B+
    Acting – A-
    Technical – B+
    Overall – B+