Independent black cinema might finally be
coming into its own and it’s worth focusing strictly on this moment. As
a longstanding member of the Black Reel Awards, one of several entities
that recognizes the best in black cinema each year, I find myself in
the enviable position of having access to a number of films that rarely
reach theaters in our area.
Dwayne Johnson races down dark and dirty alleyways as an ex-con hunting down the men who double-crossed him during a major heist and killed his brother. Director George Tillman Jr. channels his inner Tony Scott here, but the script lacks a surprising or thrilling punch, and Tillman refuses to race fast and furiously into the darkest and most dangerous corners that would have at least made for some real B-movie glory. Grade: D.
Soul Food director George Tillman Jr. helms this Hip Hop biopic based on the rise and untimely demise of Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G.), tracing his early days as a corner dealer to his relationship with Sean "Puffy" Combs and Tupac Shakur. Watching newcomer Jamal Woolard valiantly attempt to fill the big man's shoes inspires sadness (at the loss) and a sense of being underwhelmed by the proceedings. Grade: C.