Red Hook Summer: Christian Movie Review


First off, the characters in Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer looked as real as if you had stepped out of your front door, caught the subway and made your rounds through the no holds barred city of New York. Lee did a good job in the casting process: no over sexualized, glam puss, pretty boy actors/actresses here. The Female characters were maternal, womanly; like ladies I grew up around. Their presence emanates an old school grandmotherly type of protection, wisdom, and guidance.

The male characters seemed to be plucked right off of NYC’s streets; ripe with unabashed quirkiness, eccentricity, zeal, Martin Luther King righteousness and ’round the way B-Boy demeanor and dialect.

One of the Protagonists of Red Hook: the good Pastor Enoch (Clarke Peters), has all the passion, community involvement, and heated sermons of a street corner ‘hood preacher’, with such optimism, social justice, and fervor that riles up the emotions of the congregation, that the pastor could easily be mistaken a demagogue. He is perfectly cast; from his slicked back afro, peremptory voice, to the flawless execution of the dichotomy of his character.

New comer Jules Brown embodies the role of Flik Royale, Pastor Enoch’s grandson. Jules’ portrayal of character Flik is quite monotone, with the exception of culture/religion clashes with his grandfather, and adolescent banter with character Chazz.

Chazz, played by Tony Lysaith, is a spunky, rambunctious, outspoken girl whom befriends Flik. Chazz’s character is Akin to a throwback 1980’s era, popular 5th grade school kid, who all the nerd’s wanted to be friends with. What I personally like about Chazz is that she is headstrong, a thinker, much a philosopher for a kid her age; not to mention a little mischievous, which drives the story and adds a few good laughs! Contrarily, with better direction Chazz’s performance could have been much more solid.

Lee is a little more preachy in Red Hook compared to his previous movies, however it is eloquently executed through the diatribes of the good Pastor Enoch. The writing is a collage of new age pop culture, Sunday morning church sermons, pressing concerns of the inner city neighborhood, to the history of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Although, some topics of discussion seem outdated. Lee’s polemics is ever present in his current piece. While Red Hook draws you into a seeming adolescent romance between Flik and Chazz, and visually stimulates with colorful visages and homage to the city; the plot hits you like a wielding baseball bat swung by a bullied, abused, and fed up kid! While the movie is fluidly moving along, it comes out of nowhere and jars you: BAM! just like that!

A stiff-necked religious church lady would easily turn into Esther from Sanford & Son at the subject matter’s in-your-face reality! The audience gets to hear the other side of the story, which was a well acted and executed scene that left one not knowing whether to cheer for its redemptor or feel sorry for the Pastor. In the scene that follows, I felt that Lee didn’t need to expound in detail the horrid visuals via a flashback.

Overall, the movie had quite a few loop holes, loose ends, and left many questions unanswered. The acting was mediocre at best, with the exception of a few stand out performances: Clarke Peters, Nate Parker, and my personal best: Coleman Domingo.

Some of my friends were disturbed by the movie’s subject matter, but I have personally experienced it first hand. It leaves so much frustration, anger, and lifelong healing to the persons affected by it. Though uneasy to watch, it is realism! And, it’s happening on a much too frequent basis. Maybe this movie will allow the “doers” to see themselves outside of themselves, to provoke change. Moreover, the soundtrack, which was recorded by the real, Lil’ Piece of Heaven Babtist Church choir, nostalgically takes you back to the old time Gospel Hymns. After reading this review, I would advise you to see the movie at your own discretion.

One thing the movie did leave me with is the commonly quoted: Galatians 6:7-8. What you sow, goes out and circles around in the spirit realm like a boomerang until it eventually comes back to you. Even though you may have repented and God has forgiven you, you will still have to live with its consequences, so choose wisely! 

 -Puah Neiel

The Grey-Must Read Christian Movie Review!


Starring: Liam Neeson as Ottway
Dermot Mulroney
Frank Grillo as John Diaz
James Badge as Dale
Joe Anderson
Nonso Anozie
Dallas Roberts
Ben Bray as Hernandez
James Bitonti as Ottway’s Father
Jonathan Bitonti as Young Ottway
Director: Joe Carnahan
Producer:1984 Private Defense Contractors: Liddell Entertainment, Scott Free Productions
Distributor: Open Road Films

As a person that loves to watch movies, over the years I find that as a Christian there aren’t many movies I can watch without displaying the use of profanity, vulgarity, or illicit sex–to name a few. Really, I have been delegated to watch mostly children’s movies because of the out right immorality.

So finding myself in movie mode on a young Monday night, I decide to take in a movie. I know better by now to watch a movie without reading its synopsis right? So I go to a certain website and read the review of the movie The Grey . It touts it as an “action packed” movie that deals with “spirituality and morality.” “A must see movie,” that delves into “human nature” and “human survival.” Even though it had an “R” rating (thinking it was more for cadavers and wolves), “sounds like my kinda of movie,” I tell myself. BY NO MEANS am I a movie critic, but this movie had such strong sentiments that as a Christian, I would be remiss not to write about it.

In a very concise review, The Grey tells the story of seven surviving oil riggers who, while flying out for another gig, succumb to a plane crash in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. The riggers not only have to battle the elements of torrent weather and snow storms, but also fend for their lives against vicious wolves that see the men as a threat to their territory.

The director does a great job with cinematography and creating a realistic dark, grey atmosphere–hence the title–that implants the viewer directly into the Alaskan wilds, right alongside the cast. However, in a few scenes the camera was very shaky and you could not accurately see what was going on.

The film is unapologetic in its tone. It takes you on a thrill ride with on-the-edge-of your seat action and has your heart racing at the turn of every scene. It is not an easy movie to watch.

Trying to critique this movie from a Christian standpoint and a non-believer’s stand point, I cannot help but come back to the same conclusions.

The Grey is laden with epithets throughout the whole movie. If one were to remove all the “cuss” words there would simply be little dialogue. On top of that there was blatant use of sacrilege, constant reference to sexual immorality and fornication.

I do understand the director may have been trying to showcase “real” human nature and the good of man, but I felt it was done on an imbalanced scale, weighing on the side of Atheism. For instance, there was a scene where the protagonist of the movie–Neeson, who’s character was named Ottway, reprimands one of the oilers from looting the deceased and later tells the men to gather the deads’ wallets so they can be identified by their loved ones. Carnahan hints there may be some type of existence of a God in a scene where one of the men wants to say a prayer for the dead, and thanks God for keeping them alive. And, in a later scene in the movie when character John Diaz chooses to die by a beautiful flowing river and says he doesn’t have anything better to look forward to than that view. That was the most tear-jerking scene in the film.

The oilers eventually get killed off one by one, with Ottway being the last survivor left. In an earlier scene, Ottway self-righteously alludes there is no God, now fast-forward to the final scene where he sits on an embankment and violently, blatantly curses God and demands God to help him. In the next minute he retorts, “fine, I’ll do it myself then!”

By all means, one can understand the hurt and anger people may feel when they deem God has forsaken them. The way Ottway’s character was written does not give the audience enough history to fully understand why he chooses the spiritual beliefs he does. Here’s a man who has neglected God his whole life and at the very end, instead of finally making peace with life, he disturbingly launches a tirade against God. Giving God a few seconds to deliver him out of this situation–albeit nightmarish. Furthermore, I cannot even understand how actor, Liam Neeson, could recite this hateful monologue against God, even if it was written in the script. Actors can challenge the writing.

It reminds me of the verse:

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

For a movie?

This film showcases the pride and arrogance of fallen man, giving God ultimatums and when it isn’t deemed (in their minds) God is just, they curse God and continue to make themselves the God’s of their own lives.

The film, in my opinion, did not have any kind of moral to the story, no plot, or explanation, it just was. I get that every story isn’t going to have a happy ending, and the director was trying to portray realism. If anything, this film tells the unfortunate story of a group of men, all but maybe two, who throughout the course of their lives did not acknowledge God and died in their sin with no hope.

Moreover, if God’s own prophets such as The Apostle Paul, John the Babtist, Stephen, Peter, why…even God’s own beloved son Jesus, died horrendous deaths; and they were servants of God, why does the writer choose to depict a story where arrogant, unrepentant man expects to be spared death?

My spirit was troubled very much watching this movie, so much so I had to ask God’s forgiveness because of its out right use of God’s name in vain. It made me question the religious motives of the writer and director as the movie seems to be another case of Christian bashing and hatred towards God. I will do more thorough research from now on on any movie I watch.

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