April 22, 2022

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Da 5 Bloods Is A Rugged Movie Nearly Spoiled By Its Overt Politics

Da 5 Bloods

“Da 5 Bloods” was released on Netflix on June 12. George Floyd was buried three days before then and the United States (and the world) are yet to come to terms with the rioting and protests that followed the death of the black man who died under the knee of a white police officer. I don’t know if the movie was edited after George Floyd’s murder on May 28.

The speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., of Malcolm X, and Mohammed Ali might not have been originally part of the movie and were added in the last moment to give us a movie that spoke of the situation on the ground. I suspect this wasn’t the case, that this was how Spike Lee planned the movie all along, that the movie was going to be overt about its racial assertions. But the originality of the speeches doesn’t change the fact that its politics nearly ruined the fine movie.

When I reviewed “Jojo Rabbit” as part of our best films of 2019, I mentioned that there were people who were mad at Taika Waititi for his portrayal of the good side of the Nazis which was akin to Donald Trump saying there were good people among the White Supremacist protest which saw the death of an anti-racist protester, knocked cold by a supremacist driver. I pointed out that a movie is, first of all, an art form before it becomes a source of propaganda. I believe movies should be allowed to explore historic themes however they deemed most fit. As long as they do not distort the facts, you cannot get mad at them for the aspect they choose to highlight.

Of course, there are good people in Nazi Germany who resisted Hitler’s boots and were hanged. I wouldn’t have known this if I didn’t see “Jojo Rabbit”. I am still waiting for a movie that highlights the plight of Colonial Africans who were forced into uniforms to fight for their British masters during the war. Might make this happen when I make money.

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Da 5 Bloods Review

“Da 5 Bloods” is a movie about the participation of blacks in the Vietnam War. There were 11 percent of Black American citizens during the war but they represented more than 30 percent of all the American forces at the war front. This is a salient point even though it is aired to the men by the Vietnamese propaganda arm. White boys were in college studying while blacks are sent to a faraway land to fight for justice and rights that are denied to them at home. One of the soldiers mentioned this and it is a well-noted point.

The Five Bloods are five African American men fighting side by side in Vietnam. Their leader is Norman played by the Black Panther himself (Chadwick Boseman). There is the crazy Paul played by Delroy Lindo; there is Otis played by Clarke Peters; then Melvin played by Isiah Witlock Jr., and Eddie played by Norm Lewis. They were sent to recover gold that the CIA lost in the jungle while ferrying it to their Vietnamese collaborators. The guys found the gold but Norman their inspirational leader tell them to bury the gold then later return to reclaim it, when the war ends, for Black cause back home.

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But it doesn’t work like that. Stormin’ Norm is killed and the remaining four are unable to make it back for at least twenty years. When they return, it isn’t just for the gold. They also want to take their leader’s bones home. It is curious to see that Spike used the same aged actors we see in the present day of the movie to portray young men twenty years ago. Delroy Lindo is 67 years old. Imagine acting a young version of himself from more than twenty years ago. It won’t make sense and it didn’t make sense watching it.

Spike Lee could have brought in younger men to act the younger versions of Paul, Otis, Eddie, and Melvin, men who are within the age bracket of Boseman. Or he could have used CGI the kind that removed up to 30 years from Robert De Niro and co and added 15 years to their ages at will in “The Irishman”. Maybe Spike Lee didn’t have that kind of budget which was why he should have followed the former point. Using old men to act young men cost “Da 5 Bloods” a lot of points, kind of amateurish.

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There is no way I can continue to touch on the plot of the movie without giving too much away but I must point out that as Otis’ old girlfriend said, “Gold changes people”, and it does more than change the men; I think a tsunami is the best word to describe their experience in the jungle in search of the gold.

The dialogue in the show isn’t terrible even though I thought the acting of Jonathan Majors who played Paul’s son David and who joins the remaining four to their gold expedition left a lot to be admired. The fighting scenes were good but the last fight does not win many awards. One place that this film failed spectacularly in is in making of powerful scenes. There is hardly one stand out scene you can point out as one many would re-watch again and again. The near revolt of Da Four and the unity that Boseman forced on them comes close.

Read the review of A Fall From Grace

On the contrary, there are a lot of head-scratching moments. That time when David needs rescuing by Da Bloods and the LAMB guys and the manner of the rescuing is nearly laughable. Terribly laughable.

I would rate “Da 5 Bloods” 6.5 out of 10 because it kept me on my tablet for the entirely of its two and a half hours despite the pressures from family around me and Social Media messages popping up. I won’t subtract points for the documentary-type of race preaching in the show. It is enough that I mentioned that the propaganda was off-putting. I don’t think you would read elsewhere complaints (as much as mentions) of overt selling of black legends and myths as reviewers are either afraid of being tagged racist or tagged saboteurs.

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I am not.

Image source: NBC News


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