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Da 5 Bloods

‘Da 5 Bloods’ finds director Spike Lee exploring African America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Examining the emotional aftermath, ‘Da 5 Bloods’ also has much to say about 1960’s race relations. As with his previous work, ‘Da 5 Bloods’ isn’t a dry historical essay, having a mostly captivating mix of drama, humour and action. This isn’t something Lee often has in his films but it adds to his flair for gritty realism and relatable characters no matter the time period.

Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jnr) are Vietnam veterans returning to Vietnam. Their goals are to find the body of their former Squad Leader Norm (Chadwick Boseman) and buried treasure found decades ago. As they search through the Vietnamese jungle, the men deal with past and current regrets while clearing a path for the future.

At its heart, ‘Da 5 Bloods’ explores the impact war had on everyone including opposite sides of the conflict. Some were able to rebuild their lives better than others, with a few unaware of how wartime experiences changed those around them. Spike Lee’s strongly written characters are strong individuals with their unique personalities presenting unexpected moments along their journey.

Spike Lee is generally a good story-teller although ‘Da 5 Bloods’ suffers from his usual excess. Whilst it’s interesting viewing, his narrative touches wanders off into tangents that either don’t make sense drags the pacing. The mood and music of the era are well presented with the cast diving into their multi-faceted roles with gusto.

War is always hell but so is its ongoing influence as ‘Da 5 Bloods’ shows. Although not consistently engaging, it’s still a fairly solid film in Lee’s cinematic repertoire. Whatever the quality of his films, Lee is always a director whose films have enough value worthy of watching and thinking about long after their end credits.

Rating out of 10: 6

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX.

The Marksman

One of the best thing said about Liam Neeson is he’s dependable. Even if one of his films might not be the greatest, you know he will give the best performance he can. His stoic presence has elevated the most substandard material. His firm delivery of dialogue and his slinky moves in many action films have seen his career surge in recent years. ‘The Marksman’ is more of the same. That’s not much of a negative, as his latest action flick delivers the goods with Neeson’s usual steely gaze working overtime.

Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is a rancher patrolling the Arizona border. Although still grieving the recent death of his wife, he continues to go about his job with expert proficiency. His skills come in handy when he meets young Mexican boy Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba). Fleeing a cartel of assassins who have followed him to the U.S., Maurico desperately needs help. Stepping in to protect the boy, Hanson sets plans in motion to defeat those daring to cross his well-trodden path.

‘The Marksman’ offers Neeson a rare chance in stepping out of his comfort zone. His character isn’t one you can warm to, with his embittered view of life affecting his judgement. Hanson is a man who makes mistakes but Maurico’s presence potentially softens his hard edge. Neeson does a fine job in conveying his character’s world-weary views, making the predictable story engaging. His co-stars with somewhat under-written roles try to rise above the clunky script.

Robert Lorenz directs ‘The Marksman’ with a good eye for action. What he lacks in developing characters, he gains in moving the story along and making the most of the gritty stunt-work. The cinematography exposes Arizona’s dusty plains, almost playing like an urban Western. There’s not more that can be said with ‘The Marksman’ not offering much except for Neeson’s performance and explosive set-pieces.

A mid-range offering in his film catalogue, ‘The Marksman’ is a serviceable Liam Neeson starrer. If you don’t go into it expecting much then you won’t be disappointed. It thrills in the right places and does the job with Neeson’s reliability in delivering a diverting movie intact.

Rating out of 10: 6

CURRENTLY SCREENING IN CINEMAS.