Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The thriller element of all is slickly written and the tension well generated, but sometimes it struggles for air amid the film’s more soapy subplots." | Photo: Paul De Lumen/Courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

This conspiracy thriller from Eromose hinges on ambition – the obvious drive of Democratic presidential candidate Harold Roundtree (Orlando Jones) as he powers through his policies with the backing of a super PAC and a set of less wholesome hidden objectives by others that become apparent as the film unfolds. It’s also marked by the ambition of the writer/director/editor himself, who not only wants to serve up mainstream tension and family drama, also has one eye on wider modern political funding and another on attempting to educate his audience about this, the history of racism in America and the link between the two.

There is a lot going on here, much of it good, but the elements jostle for attention, with Eromose, who previously made Legacy: Black Ops, joining any number of first and second-time filmmakers who are so keen to include all their ideas in one film they risk overloading it. Roundtree’s campaign acts as a backdrop – and he is seen being interviewed about policy by a news journalist (William Fichtner) at intervals through the action. The focus, however, is Femi Jackson (Brandon Victor Dixon), the financial director of the super PAC behind Roundtree’s funding. We meet him in the surroundings of his family, a warm-hearted set-up that also indicates the different approaches to politics of Femi and his pregnant wife Maria (Naturi Naughton), a bank worker who takes a much more head-on approach to racism, both overt and systemic, than her husband, and which is smoothly articulated in a conversation about the pros and cons of Marvel’s Black Panther. These sorts of arguments about race and representation are stitched through casual conversations throughout the film, although some feel more forced than others.

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Don’t worry if you have never heard of a Super PAC (short for political action committee) either, Eromose manages to weave a short animation outlining how these funding bodies work into the narrative. This is just one of the cutaways that will be included here, something that though interesting to a point, put the brakes on the thriller’s pace, as we keep stumbling on school lessons that tend towards the preachy. And so, to the plot, which largely revolves around Femi’s discovery that funding sources to the Super PAC are quite literally adding up to trouble. A whiz with numbers, he notices strings of donations that, if the numbers of each donation are totted up they equal 88. It’s at this point that he and his equally mathematically adept friend Ira Goldstein (Thomas Sadoski) start digging and enter the shadowy hinterland behind super PACs, where donations can be made without knowing who is behind them, which leads them to sinister revelations and the suggestion that overt acts of racism are just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to power and manipulation.

The thriller element of all is slickly written and the tension well generated, but sometimes it struggles for air amid the film’s more soapy subplots. While the fact that Femi is a recovering alcoholic indicates character to a degree, it feels more included so that Eromose can have him conduct a conversation about racism with his recovery sponsor (Kenneth Choi) than anything else. Equally a subplot involving Maria’s attempts to secure a loan for an ex-con are clearly included to highlight the failings of ‘rehabilitation’ post-prison rather than adding much to the film as a whole. Eromose continues to know a good actor when he sees one, his previous film featured Idris Elba and Eamonn Walker and both Dixon and Naughton are definitely names to watch along with young star Jeremiah King as Femi and Maria’s son Ola. There’s a suspicion that the film’s disparate elements might have come together more successfully as a mini-series – something Eromose would doubtless have a talent for – but within a film structure less would be more.

Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2022
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The Financial Director for a democratic super PAC behind a frontrunner presidential candidate investigates donations uncovering a conspiracy.

Director: Eromose

Writer: Eromose

Starring: Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton, Orlando Jones, Thomas Sadoski, William Fichtner, Amy Sloan

Year: 2022

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2022

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