Da 5 Bloods ★★★½

Imperialism scars run deep. Lee never makes tidy well organized movies and he is always more interested in pocking in the nest than in solve it (the frustrating thing about BlackKKansmam reviews, pro and con, is that they acted like otherwise). As often the case in his non-New York fictional features, the space is heavy symbolical more a place of conflicted ideologies than a concrete one. That has a clear price in that Vietnamese are acknowledge but never felt in anyway, but as fodder for colonialist guilt and trauma. There’s tons of big mainstream movies references, but it feels closer in spirit to an attempt of making a maximalist Fuller war epic on a typical Fuller budget. It is blunt, newsreel ready, proudly pulp. I appreciate how it is effectively two movies, one a relative mournful and reflective walkabout on past memories until the landmine scene and another a pulpier angrier self-cannibalizing screed on what those traumas means after it. The first movie is far more conventional successful than the second, which indeed is a hot mess, I do think they inform each other. Miracle on St. Anna, Lee’s previous film about African American soldiers war experiences is closer to this in some respects than been given credit, not that anyone seen interested in remember it existed, that was also a far more tidy film (it is also the only Lee movie I ever wrote a pan on, I think I wrote it was a film “that feels done before the camera rolled” which I would never say about Da 5 Bloods), but there was a strong revisionist element that is updated here to a clear acknowledgement that those scars move past, present and future. As often in Lee his “I will throw everything at the images and they will resonate somehow” approach means some parts are very undercooked (the two Peters subplots suffer this the most) and his limitations as a narrative filmmaker means the actors (Lindo and Majors specially) have to do double duty to allow the film to make dramatic sense. He also seem more at home at releasing his inner essayist than in any of his previous attempts of more mainstream filmmaking. Lindo’s performance and its crescendo of repressed rage seems to get most attention with good reason, but a lot of the film play other shades of those oppressed repressed feelings. There’s not much in a way of attempting to land any of the many angry strands together – this isn’t a movie about landing ghosts to rest, but about releasing them to better hunt us -, but there is no lack of images that allow most of those feelings to resonate and the powerful violent dialogue between the two halves of the plot as well as the many differents facets its auteur has to wear packs a lot.

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