- Gareth Crook
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
It’s familiar territory for Spike Lee. Dramatic stories based in truth. We start with loads of archive footage, Malcolm X, Mohammed Ali, Kwame Ture. The focus here is The Vietnam War, opposition to it, not just from a black standpoint, but certainly the disproportionate numbers of young black men that were forced to fight. For 3 minutes we get a breakneck pitch of just how bleak this war was, before the screen stretches out and we’re in the present day, in Ho Chi Minh City and things quickly unravel. We’re with 4 friends, Vietnam Vets, all black, Da Bloods. There’s supposed to be 5 as the title suggests and that’s why they’re here, to recover the remains of their lost leader... but that’s not all. Paul (Delroy Lindo) hasn’t forgotten or forgiven, he’s the only character with any particular back story or substance, but it’s thin. In an effort to legitimise things we get exposition laden dialogue marking past events, lost people, cultural touchstones. It feels unnecessary, because it is, along with most of the subplot. Otis (Clarke Peters) heads off to see an old flame, a prostitute who we learn had his now grown child. Pfft. Jean Reno turns up, not looking too good to be honest in a white flannel suit and turns out to be the bad guy. Pfft. We also get odd flashback style interjections in a 4:3 Super-8 style that fill out past events, one such being a big box full of gold hidden in a plane wreck. This is where things tie together, a bit. Ex prostitutes, white suited Frenchmen, they’re here to facilitate the finding and acquiring of the booty. That the characters in this film can’t decide on their purpose finding their buddy or getting rich says a lot. I’m barely 30 minutes in before deciding it’s a mess and there’s another 2 hours to go! When I mentioned ‘based in truth’ at the start, the only evidence of it is the setting. The accounts are fiction and increasingly bonkers. Firefights feel like A-Team sequences but with blood splatter... too much splatter. Every now and again, more documentary style themes are thrown in with stock photography. It feels really badly nailed on like an after thought. There might be a good idea here, but the acting is way too caricatured, the music too bombastic. There’s a whole pointless subplot with Paul’s son David who’s tagged along. Just when thought things wouldn’t get any weirder Jasper Pääkkönen and Paul Walter from BlackkKlansman turn up in a bar, then kinda tag along for the rest of the film without really doing anything. After pratting around needlessly for an hour, we finally head into the jungle on foot with a GPS tracker to find the gold. It’s like The Goonies, but shit. They find the gold and the bones of Stormin’ Norman, Da 5th Blood. This should feel poignant, but it just feels sappy. We get land mines, military drum rolls in the score, crossing and doubling crossing. Snakes and general choas, boring and bloody chaos. I’m really not sure what the point of this is, but it just keeps going. It’s supposed to a dramatic adventure, but it works better as a comedy. Not laughing with it of course, at it. It’s a stinker with no redeeming factors, even what Lee thinks is a twist is telegraphed so obviously it’s embarrassing.