Friday, February 28, 2014

Keeping a Revolution Alive in 'Repentance'

Nicole Ari Parker and Forest Whitaker in "Repentance." Photo courtesy of CodeBlack Films.

A quiet, welcome revolution going on in Hollywood continues with “Repentance.”

The indie film starring Forrest Whitaker and Anthony Mackie, opens today in U.S. theaters. FW, one of the films producers, is Angel Sanchez. Angel is a deeply troubled man who reaches out in his hour of deepest need to AM's Thomas Carter, a repurposed self-help guru and best-selling author. Angel is a huge fan of Thomas'. (See video below).

The revolutionary aspect of “Repentance” is that it is the latest film featuring black actors in atypical roles. This is a Southern gothic thriller that looks to be set in Louisiana. Again, as is the case with “About Last Night,” “The Best Man Holiday,” “Lee Daniels' The Butler” and “42” – to name four – blacks are increasingly being featured as “normal people.” That is, as relatable folk with character traits beyond abject poverty, persistent crime and base buffoonery.

“Repentance is also the second release of CodeBlack Films, film company that was born of the collaboration of Jeff Clanagan's CodeBlack Enterprises and Lionsgate Films. CodeBlack Enterprises produces urban entertainment and Lionsgate wants a piece of the lucrative urban market, so hopefully it will be a match made in heaven. Note that urban means black and possibly Hispanic, too.

JC, a former concert promoter who worked with acts such as The Isley Brothers and LL Cool J, is on the record stating that a major goal of his growing CodeBlack business is to present programming that casts blacks in a positive light. Of course, time will tell and there is no reason to disbelieve him. His company is also behind the directorial debut of Lee Daniels, “Shadowboxer” and last year's critically-received indie effort, “The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete.”

Buffoonery and ghettoism take a holiday in “Repentance,” not that these things don't exist amongst black folk. It's just that black folk are so much more than these caricatures. They are like a pie with many slices, not just two or three. Indeed, blacks are people, too. This cannot be reiterated enough as long as stereotypes feed disgust and discrimination of a group of people.

In “Repentance,” Angel is a man who is haunted by a woman who may or may not be a ghost. Understandably, his wife Sophie (Nicole Ari Parker) is concerned and estranged from him. Meanwhile, Thomas has a new lease on life after a near-death accident. He also has a loving, support wife in Maggie (Sanaa Lathan), as well as a ne'er-do-well brother, Ben (Mike Epps).

Fans of the thriller genre will see in Philippe Caland's film more than a passing resemblance to “Misery.” FW's Angel comes across just as unhinged as Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes. Similarly, AM's Thomas presents the voice of reason as does James Caan's author, Paul Sheldon.

As art, “Repentance” is a competent affair, if a bit loopy at times, mainly informed by FW's spirited performance. No one in “Repentance” need repent for a poor performance.

“Repentance” is rated R for violence including torture, and language; visit to learn more about the film.

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