Movie reviews

This is a film on the story of Ralph Waldo ‘Peetey’ Greene,who,at the time of the tumultuous Sixties,the anti-Vietnam War protests and the shooting of Martin Luther King...

Written by Shalini Langer | Published: March 14, 2009 1:49 am

Talk to me
CAST:
Don Cheadle,Chiwetel Ejiofor,Taraji P Henson,Martin Sheen
DIRECTOR: Kasi Lemmons
This is a film on the story of Ralph Waldo ‘Peetey’ Greene,who,at the time of the tumultuous Sixties,the anti-Vietnam War protests and the shooting of Martin Luther King,would become the voice of Washington DC. He was a Black man “telling the truth as it is” to an audience of mixed race,on a radio station,and getting them to listen.
He didn’t preach,he said,“for,after all,I am no more than an ex-con and thief”. Nor did he pretend to know more than the others. However,in being true to himself and to where he came from,he got the audience’s ears and managed to bring together communities driven by hate and anger. Others acknowledged it,crediting him with putting balm on the soul of a wounded Washington after King’s murder.
Balancing Greene’s showiness,swagger and supreme confidence with his obvious accomplishments couldn’t have been an easy act to copy. And the effort shows in Cheadle’s portrayal of him. While he gets the mannerisms right,it’s difficult to see what put the popular radio show host apart from the others or what made him so likeable. If it’s not the jokes,the insights,or the talent,it has to be that X-factor that makes an entertainer different from the others,and it’s hard to put one’s finger on this.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the night Martin Luther King is shot and Washington goes up in flames. What is obviously a very poignant moment in Greene’s life and a significant one in his career never comes across as anything special. A tighter screenplay,some better editing could have done wonders for the long night in America’s history
The heights Greene climbs to after that,and the self-destruction and distancing that follow,are also not very well explained. Lemmons touches on each of the episodes,and Cheadle eagerly portrays them,but you never get really the hang of Greene the man.
Taraji P Henson works equally hard at playing Greene’s free-spirited girlfriend Vernell,who was once a strip artiste and dresses as such. However,the only time the talented actress comes on her own is when she is older and mellowed and doesn’t have to make that effort at careful carelessness.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Greene’s best friend/agent/manager,the other half of the successful partnership,in contrast,hits just the right notes. The “nigger” who wore a suit and tie and was considered “too White” to fit in,ironically fits in just right.
Yes,the film talks,and so does Cheadle. But,rather sadly given its title,it doesn’t talk to me.

Street kings
CAST:
Keanu Reeves,Forest Whitaker,Hugh Laurie,Chris Evans,John Corbett
DIRECTOR: David Ayer
FILMS about policemen are a dime a dozen; films about corrupt policemen breaking the law while seeming to uphold it even more so. Films about Keanu Reeves as one of those tough,trigger-happy cops called upon to think through serious morality issues,now that’s a rarity. And guess what? You would have probably thought through the flimsy and stretching-at-the-seams plot way before Reeves’s Detective Ludlow does.
Having said that,Ayer keeps the scenes going and blood flowing at a fairly fast pace. He also packs in enough characters,living in dingy houses,and gives them enough drugs and array of guns,to make Street Kings look complicated enough to pass off as a wannabe Training Day.
Incidentally,Ayer wrote Training Day,while the writer of that other film exploring Los Angeles’s dark underbelly,L.A. Confidential,is credited at least partially with writing Street Kings.
A dead giveaway though is the line-up the director draws up for what are essentially side-kick roles. When that happens,you know the side-kicks aren’t supposed to just kick on the sides,though nothing,absolutely nothing,explains what Hugh Laurie is doing in the film.
There is also Whitaker,who inexplicably seems on the verge of bursting a vessel in every scene trying to “convince” Ludlow of the difference between half-lies and half-truths,and the convenience of both. Perhaps,there is an explanation: at the heart of it,he simply saw the futility of the effort.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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