With ALL NIGHT AND A DAY being the last new Netflix film for a couple of weeks, I’m very relieved that it was a very decent one. More than decent, actually pretty good. Written by the guy that co-wrote Black Panther, which surprised me. I’m going to actually borrow the log line of Netflix first before going into my own description because it’s the best way to describe this film: “As soft-spoken Jahkor (Ashton Sanders) struggles to keep his dream of rapping alive amidst a gang war in Oakland, his ill-fated life and real-world responsibilities drive him further and further across the line of right and wrong with tragic consequences. Landing in prison beside his father, J.D. (Jeffrey Wright) whom he never wanted to be like, Jahkor embarks on an unlikely journey of self-discovery, exploring the events that unite them, in hopes of helping his newborn son break a cycle that feels unavoidable.” Now to add a couple of story details in my own words, this film sort of plays out like a murder mystery. Not the who, but the why. Not really getting into spoilers, Jahkor murders two people right at the beginning of the movie, and the film jumps his time to three places in his life: in prison after the murder, 13 months before the murder, and some scenes of him when he was a young boy in middle school. The film plays with that time really well, no jarring editing, always knowing where it is. The film is very dark and depressing, yet with a hopeful message that no matter where you are at in life, it is still possible to make a change.
To fore warn you all, the movie is very bleak, violent, and uses the N word a ton, but if you can get past all that, it tells a great story. The thing I was afraid for the most was that the movie was going to end the way many a tale like this has ended. But it subverted my expectations, the ending even boosting the plot from what came before. I was afraid the why of the murder mystery would end up being disappointing, but it wasn’t at all, and it even added a few twists during the lead up that I didn’t see coming at all. This is a hard life and gangster film through and through, but it felt realistic in the sense that this wasn’t based on a true story and they all became moderately rich and famous like Straight Outta Compton ended (great film too and recommend that highly if you haven’t seen it). The acting is great here, even the new Candyman and Black Manta in Aquaman Yahya Abdul-Mateen II gets a couple of scenes to shine. Jeffrey Wright (Bernard in Westworld; also in the Daniel Craig Bond movies) shows us in a light I’ve never seen him before, as a hard knocks father, and he passes all of it with flying colors. Ashton Sanders as Jahkor carries the film, and his facial expressions pave the way for the emotional journey that is to come, he is great in this as well.
The film is well written and shot, Joe Robert Cole (who also co-wrote Black Panther) managed to craft a dark film that manages to show a tiny bit of light at the end of the very, very murky tunnel, and I appreciate that he went in that direction instead of just going down the route of everyone just dying tragically, which if the film had gone that way, I wouldn’t be recommending it to you now. The film is perfectly paced and flies by even with it’s maybe 10-15 minute too long of a run time of 2 hours. But let’s face facts, this kind of movie wouldn’t get any kind of theater attention today (maybe a small chance at one theater in L.A. and/or New York), so a streaming platform is the best place for it, and really only Netflix fits that bill. Although I could’ve seen HBO pick this up as well, but it would’ve been too soon after the excellent Bad Education. The one masterful excellent part of this film is a several minute tracking shot a little under an hour into the film that deals with Jahkor and his lady walking through a party that features both sides of the gang war going on in the streets, with cars squealing and doing round about tricks, very impressive camera work. Love to see when directors try something a little different than pointing and shooting. But overall, solid Netflix movie. Might not get any recognition other than it being a decent film, but when you are swimming in Netflix shit and once in awhile get a life raft, you got to jump on.