(director/writer: Spike Lee; screenwriters: Danny Bilson/Paul De Meo/Kevin Willmot; cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel; editor: Adam Gough; music: Terence Blanchard; cast: Delroy Lindo (Paul), Jonathan Majors (David), Clarke Peters (Otis), Norm Lewis (Eddie), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Melvin), Mélanie Thierry (Hedy), Paul Walter Hauser (Simon), Jasper Pääkkönen (Seppo), Johnny Trí Nguyễn (Vinh Tran), Jean Reno (Desroche), Chadwick Boseman (Stormin’ Norman), Lê Y Lan (Tiên Luu), Nguyễn Ngọc Lâm (Quân), Sandy Hương Phạm (Michon), Van Veronica Ngo (Hanoi Hannah); Runtime: 156; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lloyd Levin, Beatriz Levin, Jon Kilik; Netflix; 2020)

It’s a top-notch Spike film, who shows he can also do war dramas well.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A politically charged melodrama, that’s a blend of a war and crime thriller. It’s inspired by John Huston’s “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948). It was shot in Thailand.

Spike Lee (“Do The Right Thing”/”Malcolm X”) is the first major filmmaker to see the Vietnam War through the eyes of the black soldiers. The intense, sobering, preachy, highly emotional and cynical screenplay by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott revises a previous script, “The Last Tour,” by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, which focused on aging white veterans. This one addresses the question of racism, as seen by four African-American war veterans who gather at a bar called Apocalypse Now in Ho Chi Minh City. They have a dual mission of recovering the body of their much admired squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) and to unearth some gold bars they buried after he was killed.

The search has been arranged by Otis (Clarke Peters), after a visit to his Vietnamese prostitute lover during the war, Tien (Le Y Lan). He’s surprised to learn he has a grown daughter (Sandy Huong Pham). The girlfriend is the one who contacts the shady Frenchman, Deroches (Jean Reno), who will set up offshore accounts so they can launder the gold that was stolen by them. It was sent by the US as payment for South Vietnamese fighters.

The other pals of Otis joining the trek into the jungle are the incredulous Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), the amiable Eddie (Norm Lewis) and the fucked-up angry MAGA hat wearing Trump supporter Paul (Delroy Lindo). Also joining them at the last moment is Paul’s, black history professor, estranged son, David (Jonathan Majors).

It opens with a film clip of Muhammad Ali telling why he won’t fight in the war. It tells of the anti-war sentiments of Martin Luther King, Jr.  There are historical flashbacks of the unpopular war, encounters with rogue Vietnamese soldiers and several Marvin Gaye songs. It applauds the efforts of a Human Rights group, consisting of Hedy (Mélanie Thierry), Simon (Paul Walter Hauser), and Seppo (Jasper Pääkkönen), who devote themselves to removing old landmines from the country.

The tracking shots of cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel are super, as is the Oscar-like performance of Lindo. It’s a top-notch Spike film, who shows he can also do war dramas well.