This contemporary remake of a classic stars hot up-and-comer Trevor Jackson and one of my personal favorites, Jason Mitchell. Set in Atlanta, we follow allegedly low-key drug pens Priest (Jackson) and his partner Eddie (Mitchell) as they attempt to remain low-key and do one major deal before they retire from the drug game. While I am not proud to say it, truth is important; I have not seen the original. Thus, this review is an attempt to deal with the remake on its own terms. However, I was able to highlight aspects of the film that I appreciated and others that I found problematic.
What I enjoyed…
I am definitely biased when it comes to Mitchell, as he is one of my favorite new stars to watch climb the ranks of the entertainment industry. He provides almost all of the comedic relief and the rawness in the film. One of my favorite scenes includes him trying to calm his anxiety at crossing the border into Mexico, as his character declares that the is a “domestic nigga.” His portrayal of Eddie is spot-on in that it reminds me of that dud from around the way that everyone knows and loves. Sidenote: I would really like to see him star in some sort of comedy. I think he would be really good at it.
The fight choreography
It was exciting to see Jackson use his long limbs to whip ass. I particularly enjoyed his fight scene with his mentor Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams). The creators brought to the screen what felt like realistic moves and sequences. In doing so, it avoided painting Priest as some sort of pseudo superhero, like many stars in action movies. Instead, it supported our understanding his character as a strategic observer who watches, analyzes and waits for the right moment to strike. It was also fun to see while Priest may dominate the world, he still succumbs to his teacher.
My sister and I spent the entire movie trying to figure out if Jackson actually permed his hair for the film. In true ATL fashion, the fact that we could never definitely say is a testament to the skills of the hair dresser community. I especially enjoyed the movement and realistic disheveled-ness reflected in his coif during and post-fight. It was very realistic. I definitely need some of whatever he was using in his do.
What I found problematic…
The Snow Patrol
Priest’s antagonists are members of the drug gang, Snow Patrol. This all-white wearing group looks more like day partygoers than drug pens. It is hard to take them seriously with their white fur coats, leather jackets, and cotton shirts. Instead of dropping keys of coke, they look more like they are about to film their latest music video. Moral of the story: They feel more comical than dangerous, which I do not think is the intention.
Of course, perm-having, long black leather jacket-wearing Priest is in a committed relationship with not one, but two gorgeous women – Georgia (Lex Scott Davis), and Cynthia (Andrea Londo). I am aware that love comes in many forms and do not judge anyone’s romantic preference. However, their relationship seems to exist to serve male fantasy. This feels most apparent with their extended sex scene in the shower where the camera purposefully lingers for an unnecessary amount of time, because, well, sex sells. It is like a cross between a music video and a porno. The two women seem to almost be perfect foils, which makes them feel more like caricatures than characters.