Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Jerry Lamothe’s Blackout relates the story of a Brooklyn neighborhood caught off guard when, in 2003, the power goes out all over New York City for a period of 24 hours.
TVgasm is giving away 5 copies of the DVD. To enter simply shoot me an email to email@example.com subject BLACKOUT. Winners will be chosen at random after 02/18.
The most immediate problem Blackout suffers from is that it feels, thoroughly and undeniably, like television. It does not feel like a movie, like cinema, so much as an After-School Special. There is something minor, smallish, that characterizes the overall tone of the film.
This problem is most likely an extension of the script, which is structurally clumsy, and loaded with dialogue that doesn’t come off as either real and gritty, or literary and arch. The dialogue, for the most part, exists as a means of communicating information. Simply put, there are not a lot of subtle or interesting dialogue exchanges. But there are some.
The film is fortunate to have a cast that is strong and genuinely captivating. There are several scenes that transcend the material because the actors manage to inject the flimsy dialogue with real emotion and heart.
The standout in the picture is Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, All My Children). As a teenager in the neighborhood who is making an effort to live well by holding down a job at a local athletic apparel store, Jordan’s C.J. easily conveys the challenges and inner conflicts of one who lives in “the hood”, but is striving for something better. When the lights go out on his block, the light that is his life is put out just as bluntly.
When night falls one of the neighborhood thugs tries to rob C.J. Threatening him with a knife while choking him, the thug seems more concerned with intimidating C.J., hating C.J. simply because he has more then him. It is a testament to the young Jordan that he makes the scene gripping by simply repeating, through choked breaths, “You know me, man, you’re from my block. I’m from your block man, you know me.” Unfortunately, the attempt at neighborhood solidarity does not prevent C.J. from ending up in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his building. It a beautifully rendered scene that hints at what the film could have been if the budget had been bigger.
Zoe Saldana (Guess Who) and Susan Kelechi Watson also give the film a welcome boost in whatever scenes they are in. Particularly Saldana, who seems ready-made for big screen super-stardom. She is capable of communicating an ocean of information with a mere glance, or a shift in her posture.
Director Jerry Lamothe does an admirable job throughout the film of managing the multiple storylines. Quite self-consciously, there is no main character in the film, in the traditional sense. The main character is the neighborhood. And unfortunately, this too is a problem. It is an understandable choice considering the material, and worthy of admiration, but the approach may have been too complex for Lamothe, who is just getting his start as a feature director. It is a tricky thing to pull off, and Lamothe almost makes it work.
Scene for scene, Lamothe handles the material well, giving a number of scenes a feeling of suspense, and just as many a crisp dramatic feel. But again, the disjointed structure of the script sabotages the picture repeatedly. The actual blackout is not maximized, and the day after events too drawn out. The passage of time is also a constant thorn in Lamothe’s side, as he fails to effectively take us from morning to afternoon to night, and so on. At random the audience is given titles indicating the time. Why not just show us a clock? Does it really matter what time it is?
There are a few bonus features on the disc worth checking out. A behind the scenes special is pretty standard fare, with Lamothe shown in production meetings, the director often discussing his reasons for wanting to direct the film. Another feature introduces the cast. A lot of the material is overlapping and repetitive, but is definitely helpful in understanding how the picture came together.
It would be wrong not to mention Jefferey Wright, who was a producer on the picture and also plays a role as a barber in the film. The actor, who has stood out in so many films over the past decade (Shaft, Ali, The Manchurian Candidate, Syriana, Casino Royale), is given little to do here. He actually calls attention to the fact that the cast is an uncomfortable mixture of seasoned and not-so-seasoned actors. And not in a way that benefits the film.
It is a respectable effort, which suggests Lamothe has the potential for great things if given proper time and money.