Directed By: Ernest R. Dickerson
Written By: James Gibson
Based On The Novel By Donald Goines
Cinematography By: Matthew Labitque
Editor: Stephen Lovejoy 

Cast: DMX, David Arquette, Michael Ealy, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Drew Sidora, Antwon Tanner, Luenell, Clifton Powell, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jennifer Sky, Aisha Tyler

A film noir centering around a hard-boiled, stylish kingpin drug dealer, called King David, who returns to his hometown seeking redemption but ends up only finding violent death. King David’s final moments are spent with Paul, an aspiring journalist who knew him for just a few minutes; yet King David would forever more have an impact on Paul’s life. Half preacher, half Satan, and all street smarts, King David had recorded the story of his exploits on audiotape, leaving behind an often-poetic sermon on villainy and its consequences. The tapes reveal that the cycle of violence and retribution, which his actions have spawned, has come back to him, full circle, as he suspected they might all along.The way the film was advertised this seems like another straight to DVD hood action film starring DMX when his career was still hot. What the film actually serves up is something that is shockingly full of depth. It offers many cliches of the hood film. A disparity that seems endless. So much so that it seems like a new sort of blaxploitation only in the classic blaxploitation films there was at least hope and heroes. This film offers only anti-heroes and knowingly flawed lead characters.

It shows the Cannibalistic nature and attitude of the criminal underground and unfortunately it seems the slums. More shining a light on it rather than the positivity. This is a very bleak film. That seems obsessed with retribution that rarely comes.

though the film has a dark cloud constantly hanging over it. That fills in depression and showcases sorrow throughout. The film is actually better then one would think.

It was marketed as an action film. Though it plays closer to a drama with thriller elements. At the Heart of the film is a kind of blaxploitation drama. That is Slowly revealed as a character in modern times actually has possession of a car where he finds a diary. Not a typical one though more in the form of confessional tape recordings. that helps us fill in the story as he reads we see it in flashbacks. While in the present others search for this diary and hunt him down. As he tries to figure out the details of this man’s life and does some investigating of his own.

One of the more powerful aspects of this film other then no one is safe from sudden violence not even aimed at them. Is how selfish some of the characters are. In one of the major plot points one character dooms another one they supposedly care for out of jealously of all things. Because that person will always make them have feelings so the only solution is to ruin the person make them so pathetic and low. That they could never look at them and have feelings for them again.

What I really enjoyed about the film is how it tries to throw the audience off by constantly reinventing itself. One minute you think you have it figured out and know where it is going. It reorients itself though stays with the basics. It doesn’t discombobulate you as some other films that employ the same method do.

Kind of a comeback for Director Ernest R. Dickerson as this film is way better then his last film BONES starring Snoop Dogg

The film while having it’s leads and stars is more of an ensemble piece. That seems to have story strands that are seperate that you know will somehow collide and come together.

At the heart of this film for all the death and destruction. It is about seeking and granting redemption. The wrong ways we can sometimes go about it. How there might ultimately be none and all we can hope is that for all the bad things we cause. There might be a glimmer of hope a lesson learned so that something positive can be grown through it.

David Arquette seems more cast for crossover appeal and as the character needs to be Caucasian to more seem like an outsider into the world he is delving into. If not in attitude and culture then definitely in color. Which gives him away constantly.

DMX is well cast they use him more in his extreme in scenes we don’t see the more quiet, dramatic and is powerful in his scenes as he manages his anger and his self hatred throughout as well as his ambitions, those seem more handled in voice over then in action. As he stays as intense on screen as he is off. The filmmakers use his strengths to inform the film and his performance.

The film isn’t uplifting nor is it a film that is representative of all African-AMERICAN life nor does it claim to be. It does represent an aspect of African American life that is more exploits for grand themes and situations. That adds up to a harrowing tale of crime and how it stretches across generations. With it’s ramifications. How one can never truly be clean of their sins. For that I give the film the utmost respect for trying to take many cliches and a story we might have seen before and adding something different and original that makes the film brim with ideas and creativity. While wearing the clothes of a typical genre piece.

Grade: B-

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