New Releases for Tuesday, January 21, 2020
I See You
Directed by: Adam Randall
Run time: 96 minutes
The Lowdown: I See You, the new thriller from director Adam Randall, is so infuriatingly nonsensical that when it introduces phrogging midway through as the first of three big, albeit unbelievably dumb, twists, you actually go with it.
Phrogging, for the uninformed, is apparently a long-standing urban legend about strangers essentially squatting inside homes that are occupied, where the strangers keep hidden when the owners are awake and run roughshod around the house, eating food and sleeping in guest beds, when the owners are either off to work or sleeping.
Yes, that sounds creepy as eff, but in Randall’s incapable hands, the whole notion of phrogging becomes laughable, if for no other reason than I See You spends its first act convincing viewers they’re watching a supernatural thriller about a cop, his angry teenaged son and his estranged wife (Helen Hunt), who recently confessed to an affair, all the while dealing with the reemergence of a child serial killer.
The cop, Greg Harper (Jon Tenney), finds photos missing from frames. The sheets covering him as he sleeps get pulled away as if by phantom hands. His son, Connor, hears weird noises at different times that can’t be explained. And his wife, Jackie, discovers all of their silverware missing from a drawer.
Spoiler alert: The Harper family is not being haunted. They’re just unwitting victims of Alec and Mindy, two bored youth who get a thrill breaking in and making someone else’s house their home.
But then, at the start of the third act, I See You piles on, adding an even more ridiculous twist that completely yanks the rug out from under its naïve phroggers, as well as any viewers who have stuck with the movie to that point, and exposes a key character as being the killer hiding in plain sight.
But then, just for fun, Randall and first-time screenwriter Devon Graye, decide to throw one last twist into the mix in the film’s closing minutes, which only serves to wholly undermine the paper-thin plot that much more to the point that you have absolutely no idea what to think about anything you’ve seen.
Personally, the most unnerving part of I See You has nothing to do with the movie’s inept script and lackluster direction.
It’s Hunt herself, who is honestly unrecognizable from the actor that many, including me, grew up watching on Mad About You and in blockbusters like Twister.
This one is a huge NO on every level.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No. Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Human phroggers.
Buy/Rent – Neither.
Black and Blue (Sony, 108 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Director Deon Taylor has created his own cottage industry by helming genre films told from the specific viewpoint of black residents dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Whether human trafficking (Traffik), white nationalism (Supremacy) or home invasion (The Intruder), Taylor has become his own one-man-brand as far as urban entertainment.
He’s the B-grade action equivalent of Tyler Perry.
I’ve interviewed Taylor previously, and I can attest that his heart is firmly in the right place and his creative vision is laser focused. He’s a really good guy who wants to make movies that both rattle your nerves and make you think about important social issues.
I have absolutely no issue with that. In fact, I applaud his efforts because Hollywood is in desperate need of diverse voices creating inclusive entertainment that represents the real world and all of the people that comprise it.
My issue with Taylor as a filmmaker is that he’s yet to find a bridge to connect his good intentions with the ability to make a consistently good movie.
And, unfortunately, his latest, Black and Blue, is yet another effort that exposes that divide.
Black and Blue arrives at a time when race relations in America have reached a boiling point, with much of the division blamed on cops, the very people who should be the foremost defenders of the disenfranchised and disadvantaged populations that they serve.
Taylor’s latest follows Alicia (Naomie Harris), a rookie cop in New Orleans who must contend with an openly racist precinct house packed with the kind of angry white stereotypes that should no longer be a fixture in real life or reel life.
Even when partnered with an older, black officer, Alicia discovers that it’s not just her fellow boys in blue she has to worry about; the residents of low-income minority neighborhoods ravaged by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the offensive lack of response or caring by a predominantly white police force have become apathetic and apoplectic to anyone wearing a uniform, regardless of the color of their skin.
During a routine beat patrol, Alicia stumbles upon a handful of white narcotics detectives who murder a street-level drug dealer just for fun.
When the racist officers realize they’ve been seen by Alicia, they launch the kind of massive, guns blazing manhunt that only exists in the movies, breaking every conceivable law on the books in their overzealous effort to frame Alicia for the crime, if they don’t catch and kill her first.
Did I mention that Alicia also is a military veteran? Don’t worry, you wouldn’t suspect that to be part of her resume either given how poorly she responds to the situation and how outmatched she seems to be when defending herself.
Instead of mounting a rousing retaliatory strike and allowing Alicia to deliver her own brand of righteous vengeance straight out of a classic Blaxploitation flick starring Pam Grier, Taylor piles on the plot contrivances, turning his heroine into a victim instead of the hero that such a story requires.
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