New from Jonita Davis on The Black Cape: Life the Hard Way: Three New Films Full of Grit, Gore, and Commentary on Life

Let Him Go

Diane Lane and Kevin Costner have the best chemistry as an old couple. He’s still formidable and she has a razor-sharp sense of justice that does not surrender. Together, they are the perfect couple to have a ride out to rescue a boy from the clutches of a woman like the Weboy matriarch. She uses her boys as a validation of her own sense of self and as a protection from the men who would otherwise harm her. Lesley Manville plays that woman, Blanche, who is a formidable foe for Lane and Costner. This trio should’ve found one another years ago. Manville’s Blanche has the perfect timing to cut through Costner’s character George’s country molasses speed speech and mannerisms. She has the crudeness to throw Lane’s character Margaret off her straight-arrow long enough to touch the dirt. These are the best parts of the film Let Him Go.

Jeffrey Donovan’s Billy is a complement to Blanche as well. Let Him Go is not very remarkable of a story on the surface. It is a narrative that feels like we’ve heard many times, retold in many ways. The one about the lawman rescuing the damsel from the clutches of an evil cult or backwoods family.  Only this time, the lawman’s wife is the one seeking vengeance and the men holding the damsel are not nearly as scary as their mother.

There is an emotional tinge to this narrative though, one that Lane grasps and uses to carve out her character arc. Margaret and George have lost their son to a riding accident. Not long thereafter his widow Lorna (Kayli Carter) marries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) who is abusive–to Lorna and their grandchild. Before Margaret can do anything, the whole family is gone. It doesn’t take long to find out that their grandchild’s mother has been preyed upon. Blanche’s boy Donnie wanted to bring Mama a boy of his own. This is where the real story begins.

Turns out Donnie ran away, and Blanche is not the parent to give a warm welcome home. He knew that the sight of a new generation of boys to ruin would soften the blow. But he underestimated Margaret and George. The Weboy family is known and feared, but George Blackledge is also known. He always got his man when he was sheriff.  So, the throwdown we knew would happen does. The only thing about that showdown is that the women are the ones meant to battle to determine which family lives on and which family dies on the prairie.

Let Him Go is a story about motherhood and loss couched in a 60’s slow-burn western. George the lawman is not our hero and Billy the shady one is not the villain. This is ultimately mama bear against mama bear. And, in the end, one, of them has to go.

Let Him Go is in theaters and on home video rental.

Rating 3 of 5

Fatman

Mel Gibson’s reputation has been tarnished in the industry for quite some time. But, there is never any doubt that he can act. The films, however, were not much to worry over. So, I almost bypassed this film. That is until I saw that Marian Jean-Baptist playing alongside Gibson as a love interest, Mrs. Claus. I could at the very least watch the film for her, right?  If she saw him as fit enough to work with, then I could at least watch the film.

This is why they say Black women will save everyone.

Fatman is a nontraditional holiday film that will appease those who always want to put Die Hard on the holiday watch list alongside the animated classics and vintage films. There is a little humor in Fatman, although the name and the subject elude to something else. The film is about a rich boy (Chance Hurstfield) who steals his grandma’s money to pay a bitter hitman (Walton Coggins). We meet them just before Billy puts a hit out on the girl who beats him in the school science fair. Meanwhile, Santa is looking at shutting down the toy factory or making a deal with the military to get the money to stay open. You see, in this tale, the workshop is run on magic and cash payments sent from the U.S. and other countries. He is not in the greatest mood but still issues toys to the nice and coal to the naughty. Guess which one Billy gets.

This all comes together to be a slightly humorous film created to explore the desperation within everyone. Billy’s anger at getting coal for Christmas. His hitman who has a beef of his own with Santa, one that’s not revealed until he has the Fatman in his sights. Despite this and the militarization of his elves, workspace, and reindeer, Santa must deliver Christmas. This is also in a world that does not believe like they used to. In fact, he feels obsolete—like retiring.

This holiday season, Santa is depressed, broke, and tired of the government in his backyard. He sounds about like most of the country right now. Fatman for some will be the escape many needed from the year. It is all drama until the shooting starts—and Mrs. Claus is quite a shot herself. The film will bring some violence to the Christmas movie genre. It will satisfy those who long to have the film Die Hard on the list as a holiday movie.

Fatman is in select theaters and comes to VOD on November 24.

3.5 of 5

Jungleland

It’s called bare-knuckle boxing, the sport that Lion Kaminski (Jack O’Connell) chose to make a living. He’s managed by his brother Stanley (Hunnam), who has been taking care of them both since they were too young to need it. At last, Lion is making his way up the bare-knuckle fighting ranks. It may just be too late to save both of these men. Jungleland is so much more than a fight film.  It follows these brothers as they embark on an adventure that challenges the care system they relied on for survival for far too long. This isn’t your ordinary story of siblings finding their way to one another. It’s the tale of two roughnecks, hard-living brothers falling apart.

Lion and Stanley’s dynamics are easy to sus out in the opening scenes of the film. Stanley takes care of them both while hustling and doing some not so legal things to help them survive. He also makes sure that Lion is fed and paid. The fighter makes just enough to keep them living. These brothers also know when to flee when the winnings aren’t enough to pay some serious debts.

Pepper (played by Jonathan Majors) is a gangster, who toes the line of the stereotype so that’s somewhat of an improvement. He’s an elegant man who speaks well, but who also works for worse white people. These bosses charge him with the messy business of returning a young girl that the big boss wants badly, but for an unknown reason. Pepper knows better than to ask why. He also knows better than to do the deed himself. So, when Stanley and Lion are pinched for trying to run out on a debt, Pepper identifies a way to rid himself of three problems at once. He tasks the Kaminski brothers with taking the girl named Sky (Jessica Barden) all the way to San Diego. But this is not a road trip movie. They take the girl on the road, thinking that she is a prostitute on her way to a pimp. Sky looks like a teenager.

Both brothers are not happy being party to that. However, they are not gentlemen. Their lives depend on getting the girl where she was meant to go. So, the brothers try to slip into their practiced roles, Stanley takes care of everyone everything, while Lion keeps in shape for the next fight. This time, they have whispered into Lion’s ear.

Sky is like a bomb on the brother’s relationship/ She upends the roles, forcing Lion to protect her against his own brother. Stanley only wants to get the job done. He’s trying to protect them both in that way but never had to defend himself to his own brother. Pretty soon, their relationship explodes, exposing Stanley’s resentment and feelings of being taken for granted. There are also realities that Lion hasn’t been sharing. He’s only 25 with arthritis and short-term memory loss. This man should not be fighting anyone much longer in a sport that looks bloodier and less safe than regular boxing.

Their relationship must change and then there’s Sky. She says she is a seamstress, but Stanley knows that she has too much money for a seamstress from Indiana. The truth, however, is not anything they suspected. They should have after stopping in Gary and seeing her religiously rigid and bigoted family. In the end, the audience knows that one brother is going to break from the relationship, but who does and how are encapsulated into the action and drama of the film.

Jungleland was an unexpected look at the family dynamic that is concealed in a sports movie/road trip movie format. The violence is gritty and raw, but their bond feels real. You know they love one another, but they took too long in seeking and gaining independence. Sky is just a catalyst for an explosion that was bound to happen.

Jungleland  is available on VOD.

Rating 3 of 5

 

The post Life the Hard Way: Three New Films Full of Grit, Gore, and Commentary on Life appeared first on The Black Cape Magazine.

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