Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Ossie Davis
Director: Spike Lee
African American movies from the eighties to date have gone through three main themes. Firstly there were the stream of growing up in the hood gangster movies like BOYZ IN THE HOOD, MENACE TO SOCIETY and DO THE RIGHT THING that spawned several other hood based films like the recent NEVER DIE ALONE with the Rapper DMX. Then there are the comedies like BARBERSHOP and the current SOUL PLANE. The current craze seems to be the romantic/drama/comedy ones that portray the more successful face of the African American population such as BROWN SUGAR and THE BROTHERS but due to so many carbon copies being made they seem to be repeating the same themes all the time, they are not daring enough, and this is where Spike Lee has yet again done something fresh that proves to be very thought provoking and yet still entertaining.
Allow me to elaborate. Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a powerful young executive of a massive pharmaceutical company that is on the verge of creating a vaccine for the daunting HIV virus. He is living the American dream, but a shocking suicide by a colleague of his who also happens to be the doctor behind the planned vaccine forces him to take a closer look at his life. He comes across testimony from the late doctor that expresses the fact that the dream vaccine is actually far from being ready. Jack’s new outlook compels him to report to the governing drugs body on the unethical practices going on in his company. This action costs him his job as the company now tries to make him the scapegoat for their unsavoury actions. Jack goes home to his father (Jim Brown) and mother (Lonette McKee) to seek advice and his father tells him the story of the security guard that discovered the Watergate incident and how he ended up dying alone, jobless and homeless when he should have been a hero.
Jack’s former employers see to it that all the other major firms are made aware of his apparent unethical traits thus ensuring that he cannot get work anywhere and his personal accounts are frozen pending investigation, this is now a very desperate situation for him.
Fatima (Kerry Washington), Jack’s ex-girlfriend turned lesbian, makes Jack an offer that put quite simply considering his current situation he can’t refuse. She wants Jack to put her and her girlfriend in the family way, in other words she wants him to make them pregnant. He is initially extremely offended by this suggestion as he still has strong feelings for her, but once she includes the fact that they will pay him $10,000 cash for his services, seeing as he needs the cash, he reluctantly agrees.
Fatima’s successful conception soon makes headlines in the lesbian community and soon Fatima is knocking on Jack’s door with a string of willing customers for Jack’s “man milk” and at $10,000 a pop, he proceeds to take a succession of those infamous little blue pills better known as Viagra and then he just does some popping! Fatima’s girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez) initially fails to conceive having originally opted for artificial insemination. She now reluctantly turns to Jack but all this adds tension to the situation as Jack is still hooked on Fatima and Fatima still has feelings for him as well.
Just as he finally decides to throw in the towel for his impregnating business a teary eyed Italian woman Simona Bonasera (Monica Belluci) begs him to help her make her father (John Turturro) happy by making her pregnant. It turns out Simona is the daughter of an Italian mafia boss. Meanwhile Jack is served a summons to appear in front of a commission for the unethical practices he has been accused of and he is arrested pending the enquiry. Jack must now appear in front of this commission and prove his integrity despite the fact that his credibility is highly questionable in the public eye considering that he has been making lesbians pregnant, several women have now given birth to his babies and he has also apparently been associating with the mafia.
Anthony Mackie is the leading man and he portrays the driven, yet surprisingly vulnerable Jack Armstrong to perfection giving a very strong performance. Cameos from Woody Harrelson, Monica Belluci, John Turturro, Q-Tip, and Brian Dennehy all add to quality of the film. Jim Brown as Jack’s aging diabetes ridden father gives a particularly strong performance as highlighted in a scene that features a very heated argument between him and his wife, Jack’s mother, also excellently portrayed by Spike Lee regular Lonette McKee.
Spike Lee does a good job directing a movie that is at times funny, thought provoking, dramatic and also features a good twist on the sexual relations of men and women with the man literally being pimped out to the women. This is a film that has many concepts that should appeal to everyone and is definitely worth the ride to the cinema.