A Marine veteran (Nate Parker) working as a school janitor tries to mend his relationship with his son after a divorce. When his son is killed by a police officer (Beau Knapp) during a traffic a stop, who is then found innocent without standing trial, he takes matters into his own hands. Teaming up with a group of friends, he storms the Police Station where the officer works, takes the occupants hostage and conducts a trial of his own. I tend to take time to review two types of films on IMDB, small independent well-made films, which need support and films of any size or budget that deserve better praise than their getting. American Skin has an extremely talented team behind it. Nate Parker writes, stars and directs this story, which explores the very current and immediate question of the relationship between the Police and the African-American on the street. In the wake of George Ffloyd never has this topic been more important at a time when America has never been more divided since the Civil War. I can't help but feel that there has been a concerted effort by certain parties to give this film a low rating because of the issues it confronts. I pride myself on being impartial on my reviews and will do so again here. American Skin comes across more like a stage play and I don't know the history of the script but I personally would have loved to have seen this movie on the stage, as it has that kind of energy and setting. Once the opening act is out the way, the rest of the story is essentially set in the Police station as the impromptu jury argue out the merits of the case (this scene felt too short to me) and the hostages argue out the issues with their captors. This many big statements from one side then the other, thus at times the script can feel a little preachy and expositional BUT and it's a big but any film that tackles this deep wound in America's social narrative is almost certainly going to come across that way at times. To dismiss this piece of work is to dismiss the issues it seeks to explore and if starts conversations, no matter how small, about this issue, then it should be commended for that alone. Parker has assembled an extremely talented ensemble cast of both well known actors and some relative unknowns in the ranks here and there isn't a weak performance among the lot. Perhaps one of the issues with the movie however is in the first 15 minutes of the film, you think this is going to be a film where everything is seen via CCTV and cell phones and then it changes tack a few times, which can leave the viewer discombobulated at the beginning as to the tone and style of the film, but persevere because it's worth your time. Parker handles the entire process well and coming from someone who knows how hard it is to wear multiple hats, he's done an extremely good job here. The pacing of the film is extremely tight and the story greatly compacted in the short running time. I personally would love to see this on a theatre stage, with a slightly longer script as the merits of the argument are played out between the characters. I felt we could have been more but I suspect Parker was very conscious of the fact that he didn't want the film to come across as to 'talking heads' - Again I must praise the acting here. Parker himself always commands the screen in any role but his co-stars here are all first rate. Beau Knapp who plays the officer responsible for his sons death manages to inject some empathy into what could have easily been a two dimensional character and its nice to see Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy) in a very different role (Give him a lead part someone, he can handle it)! Some special mentions must go to Shane Paul McGhie and Milauna Jackson who are both outstanding and perhaps a little underused. I know they both have fantastic careers ahead of them. In the times we currently live in I am all too aware, just from conversations I have with my American friends just how savagely divided a nation your country is right now, as if George Ffloyd wasn't enough, the world only had to look at the events of January to be reminded of that. I have no doubt many of us are asking ourselves this question - 'What can I do, in my role, as a member of the human race, to make this planet a better place? How can I contribute towards improving the social narrative in my community? How can I effect change?' - Maybe this film was Parkers contribution when he asked himself that question. THIS IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT A 4.4 movie and even if I didn't agree with Parkers views on this topic, I certainly wouldn't rubbish his efforts for trying to effect change. Recommended.
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A Marine veteran working as a school janitor tries to mend his relationship with his son after a divorce. When his son is killed by a police officer found innocent without standing trial, he takes matters into his own hands.
January 28, 2021