Dir; Spike Lee. Starring; Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman. R. Color. 154 minutes.
After publicly condemning Hollywood for often not including black soldiers in American war films, Spike Lee made “Miracle at St. Anna” in 2008. Highlighting black military heroes is excellent. Unfortunately, the movie itself sucked. Pure war movies are not exactly Spike’s strong suit. His latest war infused dark comedy puts the director back into what he does best, social commentary fused with crazy characters and situations. “Da 5 Bloods” is one of the best Spike Lee Joints to come along in years.
The film opens with a montage of real-life social unrest in both America and Vietnam during the war. From Muhammed Ali protesting the war to students at Kent State University being shot at to historically graphic images of Vietnames citizens being killed, the stage is set for an exploration on how all people betrayed one another.
Our story begins in modern day Vietnam with four black ex-platoon brothers returning to the country that brought so much pain. Otis (Clarke Peters) is the wise and peaceful member of the group. Eddie (Norm Lewis) wants to be the extreme moral compass against the injustices of the past. Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) is the fun loving one ready to get the party started with the crew back together. Finally there’s Paul (Delroy Lindo), the most extreme PTSD nut case who rocks a MAGA hat and has no time for a begging “Gook” kid who is missing a leg at the bar. So why is this called “Da 5 Bloods”?
One member is missing, their former company commander Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman). Through flashback we see the bloods having their helicopter shot down in the jungle. With the commander leading the charge after the crash the soldiers stumble upon a case containing tens of millions of dollars worth of solid gold bricks. They bury it with the intention of returning years later to collect. Unfortunately, the philosophical Stormin’ Norman didn’t make it so the survivors are there to collect the gold as well as find the fallen soldiers remains and bring them back to U.S. soil.
Before heading into the jungle, Paul’s son David (Johnathan Majors) shows up and wants in. The father and son hate each other for several reasons, but money is money. With the help of Otis’s former prostitute that he fell in love with during the war, the guys get hooked up with a rich French investor named Desroche (Jean Reno). It takes some convincing and negotiation, but Desroche makes an agreement with the men worth millions if they can recover and return the gold without alerting authorities.
The night before heading into the jungle the bloods are provided an English speaking guide named Vin Trahn (Johnny Nguyen), an expert in Vietnamese jungle geography. The young buck David also sparks up a conversation at the bar with a beautiful white woman from France named Hedy (Melanie Thierry), a peace worker with two partners disarming mines in the jungle. These two groups will eventually cross paths again.
Their guide drops them off on the outskirts of the jungle and gives them a coordinates where he will meet them in a few days. And that is when things continue to unravel. The seemingly most well put together Otis is apparently an opioid addict. Being the most severely disturbed mentally, Paul starts to have visions from the past and becomes ultra paranoid. Plus once they find the gold it has been dispersed due to years of tropical storms so they have to dig up an entire hill to find it all. From there the most unexpected stuff happens which you must discover yourself.
Spike Lee has packed in a ton of content to try and unravel here. Multiple scenes make their own individual statement. During a flashback the black platoon hears over the radio that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, a broadcast given by a Vietnamese radio host to encourage black soldiers to stop fighting. When the crew finally gets themselves into a minefield area absolute chaos ensues. But perhaps my favorite moments are typical Spike Lee when he has his main character Paul address the camera directly, speaking his heart on the situation in both life and society. Delroy Lindo performs some Oscar caliber stuff here.
Another brilliant stroke comes from Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. The scenes in present day are filled with beautiful images of the jungle and countryside. He then seamlessly switches the framing during the flashbacks to the old school 4:3 look with gritty film that makes it looks pretty close to what television looked like back then.
“Da 5 Bloods” is not perfect. Spike goes too far at times on the social stuff which breaks away from the fascinating story he is telling. The opening let us know what you were about to say, so just say it. Still, this is a film with a box of gold worth of surprises and a solid statement by the most outspoken filmmaker ever.
Suck Factor: 1 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
- The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!