(director/writer: Juel Taylor; screenwriter: Tony Rettenmaier; cinematographer: Ken Seng; editor: Saira Haider; music: Pierre Charles/Desmond Murray; cast: John Boyega (Fontaine), Jamie Foxx (Slick Charles), Teyonah Parris (Yo-Yo), Kiefer Sutherland (Nixon), David Alan Grier (The Preacher), Nick Arapoglou (Bored Tech #2), J. Alphonse Nicholson (Isaac), Leon Lamar (Frog), Tamberla Perry (Biddy), Eric Robinson Jr. (Big Moss); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jamie Foxx, Charles D. King, Stephen “Dr” Love, Kim Roth, Datari Turner, Juel Taylor; Netflix; 2023)

“Ambiguity filters the lines between the truth and fantasy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The experimental goofy satire on conspiracy theories turns into a mysterious reality-bending sci-fi comedy, as written and directed by Juel Taylor, in his feature film directing debut. Its co-written by Tony Rettenmaier, as the writers make it a transfixing urban satire on society and make keen observations on the Black social consciousness and white privilege.

An inexplicable chain of events leads an unlikely trio getting together again when a dead man the next day returns to life after fatally shot in a motel parking lot and not remembering it. The man killed is a low-tier local drug dealer named Fontaine (John Boyega). With Fontaine miraculously again alive, he returns to his Black ghetto residence in Atlanta’s fictional area called The Glen and joins up with the wise-ass, mink-clad, slick pimp Charles (Jamie Foxx), who shot the dealer because he wanted the money owed him and the pimp wouldn’t pay him. Fontaine also reunites with the femme fatale street walker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), the pimp’s protégé, a Nancy Drew wannabe.

The ghetto trio carry on as they usually do and stop at the Mt. Zion Church, where the preacher (David Alan Grier) is located. There they have a spiked Kool-Aid drink and fall into some rabbit hole to land in an underground secret government lab that houses a cloning program. We’re now in a world where you can’t tell who is a clone and who is human. There are replicas of everyone, and everyone’s behavior is monitored. The truth checks-out as subversive, as it tells us that outsiders (whites) gain more from Black achievements than do the Black community, and passes on other tidbits about being Black in America and living in a slum where it’s hard to escape from even if killed. It also tells us this new Fontaine is a Tyrone clone.

Ambiguity filters the lines between the truth and fantasy (as the DP Ken Seng shoots in a grainy photography), and like in the 1971 chill Blaxploitation film Shaft–fantasy overrides the truth.

What’s revealed in the Black community is a sense of distrust of whitey, a sense of paranoia about the government and a sense of comic relief on how stereotypical are the Blacks who can’t get away from doing stereotypical things like eating fried chicken, getting perms, pimping, drug dealing or being whores.

The smart film has a sense of restless energy, a sense of comical put-down banter and a sense of a funky attitude to hit you upside your head. It relishes its ambiguity, as it blurs the lines between truth and conspiracy. But too bad it wasn’t clearer in parts.

It should become a cult movie hit.
Though immensely entertaining, what it suffers from is it gets into a few illogical spots it can’t recover from.

The soundtrack treats us to songs by Diana Ross and Alicia Myers.

 REVIEWED ON 7/30/2023  GRADE:B+