Anyone who seen writer/director Deon Taylor’s freshman film, “Supremacy”, has been awed by the power and strength of the heavy dramatic themes rising from the a racially motivated true story. Many, including myself, have anxiously awaited his follow-up film curious to see what Taylor would deliver next. That wait is now over. And I am here to tell you, MEET THE BLACKS is nothing at all like “Supremacy”. Going from the darkest depths of the souls of men, Taylor reaches the opposite extreme with laugh your ass off, belly shaking chuckling, eyes watering hilarity with MEET THE BLACKS. It is funny, funny, funny funny!
An all-star comedy team led by Mike Epps, Charlie Murphy, Gary Owen, George Lopez, Lil Duval and laugh-out-loud cameos by Snoop Dogg and Mike Tyson, MEET THE BLACKS is a genre bending spoof of “The Purge” and every horror movie you can think of, all under a fun-filled comedic umbrella. Taylor takes spoofing to new heights thanks to his comedically adept cast. But what is more enamoring is that with the dialogue and comedic notes, this is no holds barred. MEET THE BLACKS is NOT for the faint of heart OR the “politically correct”.
Carl Black wants a better life for his family than that in the hood of Chicago. So, when he comes into a nice chunk of change, he up and moves his new wife Lorena, teenaged daughter Allie Black, sone Carl Jr. – who everyone calls “Carls Jr”, and his cousin Cronut, to Beverly Hills. Finding them a nice, gated, secure community nestled among the blue skies, sunshine and palm trees, Carl knows life is just gonna keep getting better. But Carl picked a bad time to move as the Blacks arrive on the day of the annual purge, when crime is legal for twelve hours. And did I mentioned, the Blacks are the only black family in the neighborhood?
Performances are rock solid. As Carl, Mike Epps is at the top of his game, but the script keenly brings him back to a sweet sense of family by films end. A running theme that plays to the character of Carl is dialogue about “doing for my family” which is consistently repeated from beginning to end, and goes to the heart of the story itself.
Call me crazy, but I thoroughly enjoyed Gary Owen as an unnamed stranger who shows up during the purge with a maniacal chainsaw. Similarly, as Key Flo, a former acquaintance of Carl’s and who has something to do with Carl’s newfound fortune, Charlie Murphy will have you in stitches – and not just with his performance. Wait until you see his clothes!
A new surprise is Zulay Henao as beautiful younger wife Lorena. With a striking Sofia Vergara quality to her in both looks and comedic performance, Henao plays to it well, delivering a quite heartfelt performance; especially when engaging with Alex Henderson who plays the vampire obsessed Carl Jr. As comes as no surprise, Henderson, who made his acting debut in Taylor’s “Supremacy” is still as adorable and charming as ever and takes every opportunity to show off his 100-watt smile, er fangs. His chemistry with Henao is believable and serves as a nice balance to the high octane antics unfolding throughout the film. Bresha Webb thoroughly embodies a street stereotype of girl gone bad as Allie, while finding that balance of also being “Daddy’s Girl” when the chips are down. . .or when she wants something.
There are no words for what Mike Tyson and Lil Duval bring to the table. Just trust me when I saw comedy is an understatement for what we see from these two. George Lopez rounds things out with a fun take as the Kevlar-wearing, armed and dangerous President of the United States.
Written by Taylor and Nicole DeMasi, story structure and comedic set up is solid. They left no stone unturned with purge topics and scenarios. And yes…some very spot on messaging throughout. Watching the family bond through crisis and fear is well executed and a thematic strength. Core family characters are fleshed out while stereotypes of neighbors and cameos are spot on.
The visual grammar is standout – especially once the purge descends. Taylor and cinematographer John Connor do a terrific job with the camera, and in tandem with that editing courtesy of Suzanne Hines, Patrick McMahon and Richard B. Molina, particularly with camera dutching that really mirrors Mike Epps’ frenetic reactions. Thanks to the visuals and pacing, the audience is as off kilter as much as the Blacks are. Love the lighting of various rooms and hallways of the Black house during the purge, as well as Taylor’s use of color, always a strong suit in his cinematic design. Particularly effective is a smoke effect during the height of the purge which just escalates the parodied sense of fun and horror movie homage in the proceedings.
There are, however, a couple of scenes once the purge begins that drone on a bit. The joke comes and hits big, but then the camera expectantly lingers a bit, but nothing happens. Cutting a few seconds to keep the jokes and audience laughter going would make a big difference. Similarly, there is a kitchen scene (the plot point of which I will not divulge) where it’s obvious Taylor is trying to build dramatic tension with a slow and languid approach, but something just isn’t working to create the dynamic.
“Masks off” to Taylor for the ingenuity of parody with masks and nod to horror and heist films over the decades.
Purge yourself of all prejudice and political correctness. Embrace the funny. Embrace the family. And RUN, DON’T WALK, TO MEET THE BLACKS!!