Cinequest 21: Make a Movie Like Spike
Played Mar 4th, 6th and 8th at Cinequest at San Jose’s Camera 12.
by Richard von Busack
Director/writer/ body-sculpted star Jamil Walker Smith (Stargate Universe) made this mockumentary about a pair of Marine recruits from the south side of the Santa Monica Freeway. Ronald (Malcolm Goodwin) is the sadder, wiser one who turned bookish during a year in prison, and who has just impregnated his girlfriend. Luis (Smith) is a big kid who lives with his doting grandma, since his mother is in long-term treatment for her substance abuse problems. Being a Spike Lee fan, Luis wants to record his family and friends for use in a possible movie after he’s completed his tour of duty.
Smith uses extraneous detail to get the viewer hooked, such as a trip to Cancun to establish the limited horizons of his character Luis. Obviously Smith has something to say, with the war consuming young men of poor backgrounds by the thousands, and no end in sight predicted. It’s worth wrestling with this unwieldy film to get to the Spike Lee-worthy ending: a procession of silent characters, overlaid with some vocal acting by Louis Ferreira as a military recruiter. The solemn visual composition in the finish compares nicely to the shot on the fly earlier sequences. It’s one thing to make a movie like Spike, without adding to it scenes from a movie like Michel Gondry’s, in a surreal theater sequence with cardboard props, conducted at a military outpost. And then it’s yet another to have the kind of off-again, on-again garrison moments that even Brian De Palma couldn’t carry off in Redacted. Overacting, scourge of the indie movie, struck this one hard.
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