Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz direct Janelle Monáe, Jack Huston and Jena Malone in this suspense movie where modern day black Americans find themselves captured as slaves on a pre-Civil War plantation.
The opening half an hour is genuinely unsettling. We watch the horrors of American slavery replayed and note the few needle skips that suggest we maybe are not in the 1850s as would initially seem to be the case. What happens after we leave the plantation is pretty uninspired. Janelle Monáe is saddled with a character who can’t help but do the wrong thing every time she has a shot at freedom, and eventually her continued survival just does not ring true. It also doesn’t help that Gabourey Sidibe (usually very watchable) is playing perhaps one of the rudest, most annoying characters put up there on screen as ‘hero’ in a long old time. It is a problem when one of your good guys is less sympathetic than the psychotic kidnapping, raping racists. Wastes a potentially transgressive premise by going down the most predictable, fruitless and stupidest route with minimal excitement. The kinda film that feels like its making a statement about black identity and racial politics but really is just wallowing in cartoon suffering. The production values are strong, I’d give Monáe a second chance in a better movie.
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