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Spike Lee’s Newest Joint Da 5 Bloods Has Powerful Commentary But a Lightweight Plot

Spike Lee, creator of such joints as the down-to-the-bones biopic Malcolm X, the emotively poignant but endlessly crowd-pleasing BlacKkKlansman, and one of my personal all-time cinematic favorites, Do the Right Thing, has caught us off-guard with a somewhat surprise Netflix release of his newest feature-length Da 5 Bloods

This Vietnam war drama and treasure-hunt adventure “hybrid” of a motion picture investigates through extreme styles how our past, bellied-up hatred towards national differences can still haunt the next generation and the next generation after, continuing the rhythm of gratuitous racism. The paranoia that may strike Vietnam veterans is completely excusable, absolutely, but it would be ignorant to shun that the occurrences that can arise from the act of constantly obsessing over our past beliefs rather than shifting gears forward are what keep us from ceasing unnecessary troubles—many of which materialize in Spike Lee’s culturally relevant Da 5 Blood.  

African Americans are often left out of the equation when it comes to praising the United States’s greatest accomplishments despite how significant their impact is to our success; this is simply a fact and nothing less. In the film’s specifics, however, they were continuously disregarded for their numbering duties in the many American wars from the Civil War all the way to the Vietnam War. As the movie says, black people made up an around 1 to 10 ratio in America during the 60s and 70s, yet they made up a nearly 4 to 10 ratio in terms of soldier recruiting for the Vietnam War. 

So we got Lee and his counterpart screenwriter’s gist. The message is secure, locked up in our brains to contemplate and always remember. As for other elements that the movie attempts on a technical level, they can frequently be chaotic. As spellbinding as the premise of four charismatic veterans traveling back to Vietnam to retrieve their buried gold can be, it’s let down by a lightweight plot. The movie is admittedly aided though by its fantastic ensemble of main characters, one being a sort of leader figure, one being the casual man of the group, one being the supposed financial successor compared to the others, and one being the Trump-loving troublemaker. These characters, and of course the feature-lengths striking themes, are what keep Da 5 Bloods from crumbling completely apart. 

This Netflix special has way too many underdeveloped side stories and characters that are exported in unsound amounts of spoken exposition. It’s all got commendable social commentary behind them, but with some of Spike Lee’s joints, he tends to jam way too much of this varying information rather than broadening them out diligently. Whether it be these baskets of extra plotlines or also the countless historical facts that Lee artistically weaves into the frames, as interesting as many of them are, it just corners us into feeling half-feed due to how limitedly momentary they can be. 

There’s also an overbearingly distracting score that’s largely bothersome in the movie’s flashback sequences. On top of that, the plot is, again, so outright reliant on being spontaneous for the sake of reigning conflict upon its protagonists. And, good grief is the third act such an overblown goof of anticlimactic conditions and action movie formula. The all-inclusive affair frankly felt like it was stripped out of an entirely different motion picture. Da 5 Bloods usually shifts gears in mood so inordinately that it’s hard to tell what sequences are meant to be taken seriously or playfully. For example, the movie follows this punch-drunk, superficial and oddly blockbuster-ish final battle conclusion with some very down-to-earth, powerful and emotional archival footage; this evidently left me confirming that this individualistic experience is far too tonally indecisive. It’s as if Apocalypse Now was harshly amalgamated with Going in Style, and just from the looks of that you can already tell it sounds like an impossible task to maneuver. 

I hate saying it, but Spike Lee’s 2020 feature-length is a bit underwhelming. It’s insipid plot is visibly written at a subpar degree. Howbeit, the wonderful performances, especially from Delroy Lindo, and Spike Lee’s often obvious yet irresistible commentary which concocted the creation of this project have me somewhat appreciating it. I’d definitely still say to give this newest joint a watch on Netflix if you’re a fan of Lee’s work, but if you’re of the latter and unfamiliar of the distinct ambition he’s capable of, Da 5 Bloods may just come off as a long-winded and frankly head-scratching experience. 

Verdict: C+

2020 Ranked 

“Da 5 Bloods” is now available to stream on Netflix.

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