Chapter & Verse Review: This is the best under the radar film so far

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chapter & vers

Starring: Daniel Beaty, Loretta Devine, Omari Hardwick, Selenis Levya
Directed by: Jamal Joseph
Written by: Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beaty

After serving eight years in prison, reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram (DANIEL BEATY) re-enters society and struggles to adapt to a changed Harlem. Living under the tough supervision of a parole officer in a halfway house, he is unable to find a job that will let him use the technological skills he gained in prison. Lance is forced to take a job delivering for a food pantry where he befriends Ms. Maddy (LORETTA DEVINE), a strong and spirited grandmother, and assumes responsibility for her 15-year- old grandson Ty, a promising student who is pulled into a dangerous street gang. When gang members decide to punish Ty for disobeying the “law of the streets,” Lance risks sacrificing his “second chance” at freedom so that Ty can have a “first chance” at a better life.


The Good

Wow. I thought this movie would be predictable. In a way it is, it pulls the rug from under you. It takes a neat little story telling approach and flips it on its head when the movie opens with the closing moments of the story. I knew how the story was going to end, visually, but there’s nothing about this opening scene that provided details into what transpires in the story. No major characters are highlighter other than our protagonist Lance. You know how normally you see the end of the movie and you can kinda make out what happened? Like how at the end of Swordfish the movie opens with chaos and you see Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and John Travolta and you kind of get an idea of what’s going… well that’s not the case at all with this movie and that’s what I mean when I say that Jamal Joseph takes this concept of showing you the final moments of a film at the beginning but doesn’t really provide insights into the narrative and you’ll find out why that’s so important later on in this review. So Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beaty set up this stereotypical image of a black man pretty much getting ready to go to jail. I mean, he’s smoking a cigarette, appears to have a bullet wound in him, and there are police lights and sirens quickly approaching so it’s clear that this guy is going to jail and he runs with that stereotype that he invites the audience to utilize and really begins to take the audience on an unexpected adventure while constantly playing along the stereotypes or what people would consider to be predictable.

The movie plays out at a very calculated pace. When characters and concepts are introduced it seems randomly organic which really just goes to show you how calculated that Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beatty are in their writing. There’s a great pacing to the story that helps once scene flow to another seamlessly. There are a few scenes that I thought were a tad too short and that was honestly because I just wanted more of that scene. What the movie did was really really good with how it decided to develop the story with the 90 minute run time and it fit a lot of story in a little bit of time. It did so well with identifying characters, relationships, goals, and obstacles in a way that is remarkably relatable and that’s a huge testament to the performances by the actors in this movie.

At first I was really put off by Daniel Beatty’s character. He was just… weird. The guy just looked.. weird. There’s just something about him. Lance obviously seemed like a guy you don’t want to cross and he was that right level or creepy/quiet that made you feel like he was always ready to pounce. I may have imagined this but I swear Lance always walked around with his fists clenched. Anyone from Harlem will tell you “When you see a guy walking down the street with his fists clenched… CROSS THE STREET!” You think of characters like D-Bo from ‘Friday’ or Stew from ‘Paper Soldiers’, because you know something bad was about to happen.

I was put off by Daniel Beatty’s character, Lance, at first but as the story progressed we start to get these little flourishes of character as the movie progressed. This is actually a character study movie in many ways and we get to see how he has these experiences things that force him to evolve and grow as an individual. Beatty’s character really flourishes when we’re introduced to Loretta Devine’s character Miss Maddy. Obviously Lorretta Devine is amazing in everything and she and Beatty have some great chemistry showcasing the evolution of their relationship to full blown love! Not in a romantic way but in an almost maternal way or mother son way with Lance becoming very concerned and protective of the well being of Loretta’s character. The relationship that Beatty’s character has with the grandson is AMAZING.

Khadim Diop. I have to admit, I wrote this kid, Ty, off at the beginning of the movie which brings us back to how Beatty and Joseph play with stereotypes. When we’re first introduced to the grandson I felt that it was going to be the story of how this kid was going to jail and that’s why this story is so awesome because that’s not what happens. Instead this is the story of how this kid starts off on the wrong side of the tracks, gets inspired by Beatty’s character, and gives an effort to do the right thing. He tries to do better in school, he tries to forge new relationships, he tries to have a life outside of the streets but unfortunately he was already in it and getting out isn’t that simple.

Certain things were a little weird like the thing with the supervisor was a little strange. Like, I get it. Kind of. Let’s interject a little comedy by having Orange is the New Black‘s Selenis Leyva portraying his supervisor who has a ‘thing’ for Lance and threatens to blackmail him for if he doesn’t have sex with her which I thought was pretty cool the way he got out of it.

Omari Hardwick… I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of the television show Power. That’s not to say that the acting isn’t good and that’s not to say that the direction of the show isn’t good it’s just certain things about the story that I just don’t like. I like when things get real on that show. When you see 50 cent you know things are about to get real on that show and those are the moments I like but Omari Hardwick seems synonymous with the romance and I dont really have time for that. With this show they didn’t really focus so much on any romance. They did show that he had desire for a relationship, while thinking about the one that got away, but it’s really just a way that Beatty and Joseph add additional layers to this guy because in the third act of the film where his character just flourishes.

You also add in the other bomb shells within the story. You learn so much about why Lance is the way he is an d why he’s always, seemingly, on edge with both fists clenched even when delivering food! People like to judge a book about its cover and that’s exactly what this movie tried to teach the audience with this film. You see the ending of this movie at the beginning and you will see a stereotypical scene that invites you to draw your own conclusions. Then the movie shows you WHY and it’s just so beautiful.

My god, Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beatty, you guys are AMAZING!

The Bad

I didn’t like all of the performances in the movie. It’s not fair to completely judge the young actors as their roles were minor, in comparison to others, but they are the weakest link in a stellar line up. It’s not that I think they did or performed badly it’s just that they have the unfair luck of being the only characters in the film that fulfill your snap judgment. They’re characters are to reflect the minimalist mysogeny and violence practiced by some inner-city youth and they do that. To a fault. Their characters are so under-developed that you can’t help but nitpick at the only thing you can with these guys and that’s their performance.

The soundtrack is not memorable. I’m sure it served it’s purpose, well, throughout the movie but in hindsight I can’t recall a single tune or melody. Seriously, nothing. Also, can we talk about the final scene for a moment? The final scene is powerful but brief. It’s a bittersweet conclusion because Chapter & Verse painstakingly teaches you not to draw your own conclusion or make snap judgement and then Chapter & Verse asks you to draw your own conclusion as to the fate of Lance.

What gives!!?


Best movie I’ve watched all year… so far :-)

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About Anthony Whyte

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