Written & Directed By: Desmond Nakano
Cinematography By: Willy Kurant
Editor: Nancy Richardson
Cast: John Travolta, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Lynch, Margaret Avery, Andrew Lawrence, Bumper Robinson, Tom Wright, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Michael Beach, Seth Green, Carrie Snodgrass, Alexis Arquette, Ingrid Rogers
The story takes place in alternative America where the blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city ghettos. Louis Pinnock is a white worker in a chocolate factory, loving husband and father of two children. While delivering a package for black CEO Thaddeus Thomas, he is mistaken for a voyeur and, as a result, loses his job, gets beaten by black cops and his family gets evicted from their home. Desperate Pinnock takes a gun and kidnaps Thomas, demanding justice.
John Travolta plays a lower class factory worker. Who is asked to do an odd job for his supervisor to deliver a package to the boss's house where he accidently glimpses the bosses wife naked. His boss played by Harry Belafonte is a racist and doesn't tend to like white people. He fires Travolta. After that Travolta's wife leaves him and his life falls apart. So he decides to kidnap his boss. As he has nothing to lose and through all
Of this we learn about the reveres race relations in the films world. And it all comes to a head at the end with a selfless act that redeems certain characters.
I don't know what the intention of this movie originally was, but either way it comes across as offensive. Whenever a film talks about race it already walks a fine line and if not making It's point clear can come off more derogatory then intended. This film plays like a bad modern day color version of the TWILIGHT ZONE. Even though this is a big screen movie with a modest budget. The movie could have at least tried for some sharp satire on a worldview or society view. We get glimpses but most of the movie deals with the main characters and their familiars and becomes less of a social cause movie then a bungled kidnapping caper story.
So it feels like the social cause is there only to get the interest of the audience and maybe investors. Then it isn't actually saying something about race relations. So really the caper part isn't really that interesting.
The film might have worked better as a play or even a book. I will give it the benefit of the doubt and say maybe even a made for cable film, but as for a big screen film it's horrible.
Other then supposed role reversal of races in the world there is no story. I understand this was supposed to be a small slice of life on race relations, but there is no history given as to why or how the races have switched places and class.
Quite honestly the film could have been made without the role reversal and just been about a resentful, White man who is wrongly fired and takes out his anger on his Black boss and complains that the black world is infiltrating his world.
That could have been an interesting dynamic, but probably afraid the film would be deemed racist. Though could have opened up a discussion of race. Which this film seems to seek. Instead it goes with this rear reversal. Which feels more like a stunt and takes away from the film. So much so that the film feels more racist the way it is.
Some scenes would plaintive same way. Like when the black son brings home his white girlfriend and his parents try to stay polite despite their disappointment. Or when Travolta's son wants a black doll over a white one. According to this picture that only works with role reversal?
It is also disturbing that John Travolta's performance as a lower income member of society. He speaks with a dialect that is stereotypically associated for African American characters. Almost like a 1950's melodrama in other films. So it comes off as a bad impression of what he thinks is Ebonics. He also make his character seem a bit slow. I don't believe it was malicious, but it is disturbing and sad. Travolta could have played the role just as normal and let the situations do all the talking.
John Travolta took the role at Quentin Tarantino's urging.
Quentin Tarantino also urged Kelly Lynch to do the film. Tarantino's company, A Band Apart, produced it.
These films on race relations are fascinating to me because they always seem to leave out other races other then black and white. You wonder where are the Asians, Hispanics and middle easterners? Where do they stand? Especially considering the film is written and directed by an Asian-American.
This was one of John Travolta's first films after his comeback from PULP FICTION. I can see he probably thought it was challenging, cutting edge plus returning a favor to the producer Lawrence bender who also produced PULP FICTION. It did him no favors.
No one seems to have as many career up's and downs as John Travolta except for his FACE OFF co-star Nicolas Cage and maybe John Cusack recently. I think they are all worth casting. As they are good actors who might have lost their luster to audiences as they have gotten older, but are still capable of great work. While they all appear in. It so good films. There seems to be an integrity, a drive to create a good performance.
John Travolta always seems like and pro who is not a master of his craft but is learning and trying different things out on his way to being a complete actor. He can jump genres because there is not one type he excels in or has a clearly defined connection with and along the way he has created some iconic characters that the rest of his reserves will never completely Live up to. He is not bad, just always seems searching for definition.
This film bombed and it is obvious why. It seems more the type of film John Travolta would take before his comeback when his resume at the time was more straight to home video films. He is a talented actor who has made many bad to questionable film choices who is constantly saved by comebacks.
This was just a grand disappointment on so many levels.
My problems with the film are many. John Travolta was the wave of a comeback due to PULP FICTION at the time. When he made this, so when it came out right after it and surprisingly bombed. It wasn't as big a deal as it could have. After all he most likely did the film as a favor to the producer Lawrence bender who produced PULP FICTION, also as a favor to Miramax studios. This film was a little drop in the bucket after this he had a string of hits and then back to back bombs again.
Then there is a scene of John Travolta and Harry Belafonte in which they are attacked by a group of youths who ware either new nazi skinheads or aryan brotherhood members and it comes off as a reverse meaning. That if a group of young African American men are hanging together they are either a gang or are pro black so that must mean they are evil and hate all white people. I could see if they were gang members, though they usually hate everybody who is not a me ever if their own gang and won't think twice to wipe out whoever.
Though having skinhead thugs be the reverse time equivalent of African American thugs or maybe even gang bangers walks a fine line. Neither are good, but it feels like an unfair comparison that the film makes. A small side one.
I am surprised a noted humanitarian like Harry Belafonte choose to be in this film that seems kind of insulting and to play soul a hateful stereotypical character that makes African Americans look wrong. Then again The film is supposed to encourage dialogue about race. Even though no other race is represented in the film. Which it could have if the film was better made. Also if it was worthy of a in depth conversation. And maybe that was what he was hoping the film would do. So that is why he took it. It could have changed on the way to the big screen. So I don't blame him. It's a joy to see him on the big screen again, but he deserves better then this and believe it or not so does John Travolta.
It's a shame Harry Belafonte's return to the big screen was a Straight to DVD waiting to happen. Considering this was written and directed by the screenwriter of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. I would have expected something more challenging, truthful and controversial. Not to mention better
At the end of the film it seems to send the message her I will be natural for youth to not trust black people or people of another race, but I am guessing it was a reason to show, why black kids don't necessarily entirely trust white ones In This reality? Instead of this movie being about individuals it Just lumps everyone together.