“Da 5 Bloods” (U.S.-Rated R)
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Chadwick Boseman, Jonathan Majors,
Genre: War Drama, Adventure
This has gone on way too long!
Netflix seems to have a problem with length when it comes to its homegrown movies. In its exuberance to attract all the perceived “best talent” from television and the big screen, the streaming service is rolling out the red carpet – and apparently removing all editing guidance and notes.
As such, producers and directors seem to just run amok and run out, with glacially-paced series and mini-series and ridiculously long movies.
The movies, in particular, are plagued with unnecessary, time-consuming and time-wasting scenes. It all suggests that Netflix has either spent so much money on talent that it can’t afford to book editing time, or that it does not even have editing rooms, or has staff members that don’t want to spend much time in these rooms, because obviously they’re haunted. (I say, blame “Stranger Things”.)
Some examples: “Mudbound”, 2 hours and 14 minutes; “Marriage Story”, 2 hours and 17 minutes; and most notoriously, “The Irishman”, 3 hours and 30 minutes!! The latter, especially, would have been just fine (probably even better) with at least an hour chopped out of it.
We all know longer movies don’t necessarily mean higher quality movies. Yet, there is no sign Netflix will attempt to address this major flaw.
One of their latest, “Da 5 Bloods” – released June 12 – is a full 2 hours and 34 minutes. And once again, we are presented with a movie that could have benefitted from an aggressive axe-wielding editor.
Being from Director Spike Lee brings with it its own set of issues. And if you were thinking that after his excellent “BlacKkKlansman” he had permanently exorcised all his quirkiness, guess again!
“Da 5 Bloods” is almost a complete return to form for a “Spike Lee Joint”, featuring unusual camera angles, bizarre monologues and psychedelic flashbacks.
In the film, four Black American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.
There’s a lot going on here! Not only is it a Vietnam film, but there’s the adventure story line – a sort of geriatric “Indiana Jones”. We get discussions about race and racism and the “Black Lives Matter” movement. It’s also a pseudo-documentary, with obscure facts brought into the light. Plus, there’s family drama with children coming out of the woodwork, and hidden secrets being exposed.
More stories about the plight of Black American vets are needed. However, the lax Netflix environment grants Lee – who co-wrote the film along with Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo and Kevin Willmott – freedom to let “Da 5 Bloods” drift into and linger, hover and sag in territory that doesn’t necessarily add value to this production. A tighter, more focused script, with fewer attempts to be “everything”, would not have hurt.
But instead, we get two or three films in one. So, along with battling demons of the past and racism and injustice, we get a cartoony quest and shoot-em-ups while battling actual bad guys.
Otherwise, “Da 5 Bloods” is good looking and slickly packaged, with decent performances from its cast, particularly from a Lee favorite, Delroy Lindo. His character Paul is the most annoying and puzzling of all, but Lindo is fiery and riveting, and most of the madness makes sense in the end.
The only other challenge remains some of the timelines. Some things don’t quite add up, especially with the flashback action taking place in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. If that’s the case, some people shouldn’t look as young as they do, and certain others should be older than they appear.
And speaking of looking old: unlike the aforementioned “The Irishman”, “Da 5 Bloods” foregoes expensive de-aging special effects for its principal cast members. Nor does it use younger actors to play along with Chadwick Boseman in scenes during the Vietnam War. Instead, the actors – in their 50s and 60s – play the 20-something versions of themselves, with shaved faces in place of beards, and dye (or digital colorization) to de-gray their (thinning) hairlines.
It’s a most unusual method, but strangely poignant and effective, and further underscores the fleeting nature of life. All the more reason for judicious use of time!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.