Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Personally speaking, there is never a better time to review, watch, or analyse this movie than right now. Considering the widespread anger against racial injustice and police brutality that is coursing through the world right now, this film offers explanations and answers to all the questions you may have about racism vis-à-vis African-American residents of America. Consider the fact that the film stars and involved in production Tyrese Gibson (our very own Lamborghini and Bugatti loving Rome from Fast and Furious, yes) and Naomie Harris, two people who passionately speak on this issue extremely regularly, you find that the film while being extremely entertaining is extremely eye-opening as well.
This is going to be relatively long with a lengthy emphasis on the plot and the message it gives out, so bear with me.
Let’s drive straight into what is an extremely intriguing and eye-opening plot for some. It’s evident that the film’s plot is thematically based around the themes of police brutality, racism and crime. The film opens with Alicia (Naomie Harris) jogging in her neighbourhood only to be pulled over by a patrol car for no apparent reason (because she’s black) and is harassed even after the cops find out that she’s on the police force too. The big question that hangs over Alicia’s head throughout the entire film is where do her loyalties lie, a question that she asks herself and is something that she is asked by characters like her sister, Missy. The question, as she traverses through a ring of crooked cops and criminals is that whom does she side with, her black brothers and sisters, or her loyalty to the police, the blues (especially considering she’s served in Afghanistan in the Army, hence her sense of loyalty to it and the police as a state institution). Hence the title of the movie is “Black and Blue”, because that is what Alicia chooses to do in the end, she does the right thing by serving her blue uniform and exposing criminals, all the while doing so in order to provide justice to her oppressed brothers and sisters who are living in an all black community in an area in New Orleans that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina which had killed and destroyed many lives. However, the entire film isn’t about Alicia. Every character is dealing with their fears and demons. Mouse/Milo (Tyrese Gibson) is someone who’s battling his fear of being harassed/attacked/beaten up by the police, all the while helping a policewoman to do the right thing. We then come to characters like Darius Tureau, a drug kingpin who’s being misled by the cops and is dealing with the loss of his nephew’s life; Deacon Brown, who is crooked black cop with a moral dilemma about whether to do the right thing or save his own life; Terry Malone, a crooked white cop with his personal circle of corrupt cops that try to do everything they can to prevent their own downfall. All of these characters are integrated into the plot to represent answers to the questions that have been posed to activists against racial injustice and police brutality. You have everything, from a conventional evil white officer along with his cronies, black people who are so community-oriented to the point that law and order goes out of the window for them, to having crooked black cops like Brown as well as good natured white people in the form of Officer Jennings (albeit late in the movie) and of course the people who are stuck in the middle, like Alicia and Milo. The plot is woven around these morally diverse characters to give out a simple answer to the #alllivesmatter crowd (granted the film released before George Floyd’s death but these questions and this crowd has been around forever and needed to be addressed), that a person’s mental orientation doesn’t depend upon whether they are black, white, brown or blue; a person’s skin colour is not something that will tell you what kind of a person they are, and despite that, black people continue to be subjugated to the worst society has to offer, and Alicia’s personal plotline proves that you can respect the police while fighting for the rights of those who suffer unnecessarily at the hands of the police. It shows that there are heartless policemen like Malone (read Derek Chauvin), who are prejudiced towards people like Alicia/Zero/Milo (read George Floyd) and the aforementioned people have to bear something which no person should be subjected to: judgement, classification and stereotyping on the basis of their skin. It shows that your actions and your views on someone shouldn’t be based on what the colour of their skin is, or where their loyalties lie. The plot says that people can be good or bad, irrespective of what your skin colour is, and irrespective of whether you are an ordinary citizen or a law enforcement officer, which is why it is outrageous that (in the words of Deontay Wilder) black people have to deal with racism “till this day". The plot on the surface is very basic, involving a morally positive yet ideologically challenged cop, who witnesses injustice and tries to do the right thing while trying to escape from a circle of crooked cops that will do anything to prevent her from doing so. The heroine cop eventually succeeds, but not without needless losses, which could’ve been avoided had certain prejudices and stereotypes against her community not existed. It’s a cliché plot on the face of it, yes, but one needs to look deeper and try to understand the powerful message that the writers and the film is giving out, using such a cliché plot, which gives me more than enough reason to say that this plot was beautifully written, and extremely well thought out.
It’s safe to say that the performances given by Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson (and the others) are as eye-catching as they are passionate. The idea of having a caste that is so passionate about the issues that the movie deals with translates to some really great performances. We already knew the talent Naomie Harris possessed when it came to doing emotionally charged roles like that of Alicia, but what was a big surprise was to see Tyrese in the role of such a serious character, because we’ve generally known him to be playing characters that have a comedic air about them (Roman Pearce for example). Mike Colter as a drug lord is a role that he was bound to nail, and he did so in style. What’s interesting is that all the characters in the movie are unconventional, in the sense that they’ve never been depicted on the big screen at such a scale before, yet the cast pulled their roles off very well. Granted that the plot was a little too cliche for my taste, which meant that the roles could’ve been exploited more, but the problem remains that you can’t really blame the actors for that, so it is a thumbs up for me when it comes to looking at this category.
PRODUCTION AND DIRECTION
So this is something where I felt that the movie did lack quite a bit. As well written as the film was, I don’t believe that the director and the production team did a good job at pulling off a lot of things that they could have done when it came to exploiting the setting the film was in. The entire film is depicted as a big chase sequence, and while the film is predominantly based along those lines, the film leans way too much in that direction so this is definitely an area that the film could have done a lot better in. While the direction and production teams did a very great job on exploiting the characters of Alicia and Mouse, that’s where it ends. Characters like Darius and Brown could’ve done so much more than they were reduced to doing, hence while I do give the direction and production on this movie some credit, it is a thumbs down in this area for me.
The benefit of having an excessively predominant theme when it came to how the movie progressed is that cinematographers majorly need to focus their efforts into one area, which in this case was how the chase scenes were shot. They ended up doing a fairly good job on this front. While the issue of following a theme and nothing else marks the film down in production, it did make the lives of the cinematographers a bit easier and hence this category is a plus point for the film. I especially love how the initial scenes of Alicia were shot in the movie, especially the first chase scene where Alicia hasn’t asked for Milo’s help yet and she is all alone in the streets, running while carrying a bullet wound. The shots of the running, the camera angles, everything was done really well. Another thing to note is how beautifully the entire end sequence was filmed, which goes to show that the cinematography team did a really good job.
At the end, pretty much all I’d like to say is that with the current outrage over the world with regards to racism and police brutality in the world, the killing of George Floyd (and others like him like Breonna Taylor, may their souls rest in peace), this film while lacking a little in it’s technical aspects, is so emotional and educational that everyone should watch it. It stars actors who speak out and battle these prejudices everyday, so it’s as real and as accurate as it gets, and it will do a damn good job to educate those who are misinformed, as well as reinforce the purpose of those who are fighting for the cause of equality and justice. That’s why I say this film is a must watch, especially in today’s scenario.
Karn Kasturi Sharma
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