Black is a phenomenal heist movie set in both Paris and Dakar, intelligently mixing the religions and beliefs of Africa with a very modern story that’s action packed, funny and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Directed by Pierre Laffargue this compelling story will only leave audiences wanting more.
Black is a thief. When we meet him he is on his way to an armored truck robbery that goes terribly wrong. As he is laying low and trying to recover from the horrors of the heist, something else is going on in the city of Dakar, Senegal. A briefcase fill of raw diamonds is being kept in a safety deposit box at the largest bank in Dakar and Black’s cousin is a guard there. Knowing that Black’s skills are exactly what is needed to pull of this heist successfully, his cousin calls him. Jumping at the opportunity to get out of Paris he agrees to do the job. When the job doesn’t go as planned, Black is forced to improvise, leaving a wake of destruction in his path and being pursued by a vicious militia, he is forced to collaborate with a sexy Interpol agent in order to survive.
There isn’t much to be said about Black except that it’s brilliant. It find has the feel of a Bond film with the adventure of a solid heist flick. With great action, epic locations and a very tender look at some of the lore and religion of Senegal, it’s interesting that the films charm comes largely from its lead character. Played expertly by MC Jean Gab’1, Black is an inventive character who is obviously a survivor, but one who manages to survive with style. His partner Pamela, an undercover Interpol agent, is played by Carole Karemera and is the perfect strong woman to act opposite such a charismatic lead. She’s a tough chick without being a cliche tough chick and she’s got more inner strength than anything else – something we can easily see without the need to pepper the dialogue with how much machismo she’s got.
One of the most interesting angles in this script is the writer’s use of animals. Each of the main characters, including the films antagonist, has a spirit or totem animal that is their essential nature. This part of the film could have come off as hokey and cliche, but it is handled in a way that makes it an essential and interesting part of an overall, and modern, plot.
The one thing that bothers me about Black actually has little to do with the actual film. It’s being billed as a Blaxploitation movie, when I don’t believe that to be true. Certainly it has two black leads and a largely black cast. Does that make it Blaxploitation or just a movie with context? Certainly its white people are buffoons. Isn’t that just a choice, rather than Blaxploitation? In an industry where the audience is willing to give you between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to completely sell a movie to them I believe that filmmakers and publicity houses are being forced to choose the simplest way to communicate what the film is in a way that the audience will understand and respond to. It’s a shame because great movies are being pigeon-holed into niches that may not necessarily fit them, but then, if it gets people into the seats, it may not matter.
Black is a film that should definitely get you into seats. It’s fun, action packed and stays with you. You can find Black at the AMC Yonge and Dundas starting August 28th.
Toronto After Dark runs from August 14 to 21, 2009 at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto. Click here for our coverage.