Da 5 Bloods – 0 stars
I ran across this today on The Ringer: “Sadly, having been snubbed by the Globes and the SAGs, Delroy Lindo would do well to even get an Oscar nomination—let alone win—for his career-defining performance in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. Da 5 Bloods may struggle to get any Oscars love outside of a Supporting Actor nod for the late Chadwick Boseman, as Spike Lee also failed to garner a WGA nomination for his screenplay. All told, it’s a disappointing outcome for one of the best films of the year. (Granted, the Academy doesn’t have the best track record at recognizing greatness—Green Book won Best Picture just two years ago.)”
I’m more than happy to kick Green Book until I’m blue in the face. And when I saw Da 5 Bloods many months ago, I was just happy to leave it alone. But now, it may well garner some awards, so, I am duty bound to weigh in.
The picture is awful. Didactic, overwrought and pointless, with a decidedly cheap feel. While Delroy Lindo is a force, he is unrestrained to the point of wince-inducement. His turn as a Vietnam veteran who has gone over to the dark side (he wears a MAGA hat) is so over-the-top, I started to fiddle with my phone because I felt bad for him, for the other actors, and then, myself. To call his turn “career-defining” may well be accurate, but if that is meant in a good way, what a horrible verdict on his fantastic work in Clockers and Crooklyn, two excellent Lee movies where Lindo soars rather than perspires.
The film is also wildly uneven, at turns madcap screwball and then deeply serious. Lee had the same problem with Black KkKlansman, but that picture at least held together as just barely watchable (until the atonal offensive coda shoe-horned in at the end).
Da 5 Bloods also looks and feels like a low-budget student film. Lee makes the Mỹ Sơn temples look like a place the Brady Bunch found a haunted Tiki idol. Worse, Lee doesn’t really know what to with action sequences (see The Miracle of St. Anna), so all the running around just comes off like kids playing war.
All of that aside, even if the film had been passable, it could never have overcome the Road Runner-esque demise of a character who you just knew had to step on a land mine hidden in the jungles of what appears to be Tarzana. He’s backing up and you just know it, and then, the cartoonish visual aftermath . . .
You can’t believe it.
Gore Vidal used to quote the novelist and composer Paul Bowles quoting the composer Virgil Thomson’s advice to a young music critic: Never intrude your personal opinions when you write music criticism. “The words that you use to describe what you’ve heard will be the criticism.”
I can feel your disgust for the film. You communicate that well. But you never explain or show your readers why you feel disgust for the movie. To paraphrase Virgil Thomson, you never use your words to describe what you saw. You don’t highlight a scene or some specific element in the film that earns your ferocious judgment of it being “didactic, overwrought and pointless, with a decidedly cheap feel.”
Since I have no plans to see this movie, I would enjoy reading about a part of the movie that really got your critical dander up.
Legitimate criticism, but the movie is so bad, and in a genuinely uninteresting way, I just wanted to warn people off in case it gained traction during awards season. It doesn’t merit the full or even half autopsy.