Review: ‘The Equalizer 3,’ starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning and David Denman

August 29, 2023

by Carla Hay

Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer 3” (Photo by Stefano Montesi/Columbia Pictures)

“The Equalizer 3”

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Some language in Italian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in various cities in Italy, the action film “The Equalizer” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Vigilante crusader Robert McCall does battle against Mafia gangsters in Italy, as he crosses paths with a U.S. DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) official, who is on the trail of drug-smuggling terrorists.

Culture Audience: “The Equalizer 3” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Denzel Washington and “The Equalizer” movie franchise, but “The Equalizer 3” is blandly predictable and doesn’t offer anything innovative to the franchise.

Giorgio Antonini and Andrea Scarduzio in “The Equalizer 3” (Photo by Stefano Montesi/Columbia Pictures)

Even with the acting talent of star Denzel Washington, “The Equalizer 3” is a soulless, formulaic and often idiotic action flick about the protagonist fighting Mafia gangsters in Italy. It’s easily the worst movie of this franchise. New characters are introduced but are barely developed. The movie’s “plot reveal” is not surprising at all.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk, “The Equalizer 3” is the follow-up to 2014’s “The Equalizer” and 2018’s “The Equalizer 2,” which were also directed by Fuqua and written by Wenk. All of these movies are inspired by “The Equalizer” TV series, which starred Edward Woodward and was on the air from 1985 to 1989. The lazy screenplay of “The Equalizer 3” is the weakest link in the movie.

“The Equalizer 3” is the type of mindless story that’s in a low-quality action flick, but “The Equalizer” has the high budget of a major studio movie. In other words, “The Equalizer 3” looks slick, and it has the star appeal of Washington, but it’s ultimately a very hollow movie with a basic plot that’s been seen and done many times before in other action movies where the “hero” fights gangsters. Just because “The Equalizer 3” changed the story’s location to Italy (the first two “Equalizer” movies took place in Boston) doesn’t mean that “The Equalizer” has anything new and interesting to say.

The opening scene of “The Equalizer” takes place in Sicily, Italy, and shows a crime lord named Lorenzo Vitale (played by Bruno Bilotta) driving himself and his unnamed grandson (played by Adriano Sabrie) in a Land Rover to a house in a fairly secluded area. While his grandson (who’s about 11 or 12 years old) waits in the car, Lorenzo is greeted by an armed security guard, who shows Lorenzo the massacre that took place inside the house. The bloodied bodies of about eight or nine men are shown in various places throughout the house.

In one of the house’s rooms, the man who caused this massacre is being held at gunpoint by two thugs. This vigilante is a loner named Robert McCall (played by Washington), a former U.S. Marine and a former U.S. Defense Intelligency Agency (DIA) official, who is based in Boston and currently makes a living in working-class jobs. (Robert worked at a hardware store in “The Equalizer” and as a Lyft driver in “The Equalizer 2.”) Robert’s skills as a former government assassin come in handy when he goes on his vigilante missions.

What is Robert doing in Italy? And what does he have against Lorenzo? Robert snarls to Lorenzo: “You took something that didn’t belong to you. I’m here to take it back.” Through some highly implausible fight tactics, Robert then proceeds to kill everyone in the house. Most of the murder scenes in “The Equalizer 3” are very graphic and seem to revel in the violence. For example, when Robert murders everyone in the house, he shoots a man through the eye so that the bullets can shoot another man.

Robert thinks he can make an easy getaway, but he doesn’t know until it’s too late that Lorenzo’s grandson is outside. Lorenzo’s grandson has a shotgun that he uses to shoot Robert, who fires his gun in the air. This gunfire scares the boy, who runs away. Robert soon finds out he’s been shot in the back. Robert is able to get in his car before he starts to lose consciousness.

Robert is found unconscious in his car and rescued by a local man, who brings Robert to a doctor named Enzo Arisio (played by Remo Girone), who performs surgery on Robert in Enzo’s home. Why didn’t Enzo take Robert to a doctor or contact police? Enzo lives in an area that is ruled by the Mafia, so he knows that when a stranger with a gunshot wound is in the area, there’s a good chance it has something to do with the Mafia.

Enzo asks Robert what his name is, and Robert says his name is Roberto. Enzo then asks Robert if he is a good man or a bad man. Robert says that he doesn’t know. Enzo doesn’t ask any more questions and decides to let Robert stay in Enzo’s house while Robert recovers from his injuries and surgery. Enzo tells Robert that Robert is lucky that he was shot with a .22 caliber bullet instead of a more high-impact bullet.

After the fight/killing scene in the beginning of “The Equalizer 3,” not much happens in the movie for the next 20 minutes. Robert is seen walking around with a cane, as he gets to know Enzo and some of the other local people. Eventually, Robert no longer has to use a cane. For someone who was shot in his back, Robert makes a remarkably quick recovery. The movie doesn’t bother to show Robert go through any realistic physical therapy.

Robert becomes friendly with a generous and amiable restaurateur named Angelo (played by Daniele Perrone), whose employees include a cook in his late teens or early 20s named Khalid (played by Zakaria Hamz) and a server in her 30s named Aminah (played by Gaia Scodellaro), who shows a semi-romantic interest in bachelor Robert. Aminah literally doesn’t do much in this movie but smile a lot, work in the restaurant, and show Robert some of her favorite food places in the area. Aminah’s presence in the movie has no effect on the overall plot.

There aren’t many female characters with speaking roles in “The Equalizer 3.” The female characters who speak are only in this movie to react to whatever the men do. There are many superficial male characters in “The Equalizer 3,” but at least they are given more to do and have more action-oriented roles. The women in “The Equalizer 3” who have the most dialogue in the movie all look like overly polished and attractive actresses instead of looking more realistic for their roles.

Angelo owes money to local gangsters who are led by the ruthless Vincent Quaranta (played by Andrea Scarduzio), a not-very-interesting stereotype of a Mafia leader. Vincent has his equally sadistic younger brother Marco Quaranta (played by Andrea Dodero) do a lot of the dirty work for the gang. All the gangsters except Vincent and Marco are generic with forgettable dialogue. There’s also a Mafia cartel called the Camorra crime family that figures into the plot.

During his stay in Italy, Robert makes a phone call to DIA official Emma Collins (played by Dakota Fanning) at her headquarters in the United States. Emma is later revealed to have a connection to people whom Robert knew in his past. (This connection is fairly easy to predict.)

Robert passes along an “anonymous” tip to Emma about drug smuggling of synthetic amphetamines in Italy. Emma is immediately able to trace the call and find out who made the call. And it isn’t long before Emma arrives in Italy and makes contact with Robert. Emma’s supervisor Frank Conroy (played by David Denman) occasionally shows up to give orders.

“The Equalizer” takes place in various locations in Italy, including Sicily, Rome and Naples. There’s some moronic mush in the plot about the connection between the drug smuggling and terrorism. But that potentially intriguing story is just a backdrop to the movie’s ultra-violent but ultimately quite tedious scenes involving fighting, torturing and killing. No one is expecting “The Equalizer 3” to be award-worthy, but this shallow movie really insults the intelligence of viewers on the most basic levels, with its dull ripoff ideas, far-fetched scenarios and stupid dialogue.

A local police marshal named Gio Bonucci (played by Eugenio Mastrandrea), his wife Chiara Bonucci (played by Sonia Ben Ammar) and their daughter Gabriella “Gabby” Bonucci (played by Dea Lanzaro) are among the targets for the gangster violence. The local police, led by Police Chief Barella (played by Adolfo Margiotta), might or might not be trustworthy, depending on their level of ethics or corruption. All of these supporting characters are either very underdeveloped or are cartoonish caricatures.

“The Equalizer 3” is the type of idiotic movie where the villain in charge could easily kill the “hero” in the middle of a violent fight scene, but instead the villain just glares and makes threats with a weapon in his hand. There are some overly choreographed fight scenes that might impress some viewers, but it all just looks so phony. Washington’s charisma is mostly muted in “The Equalizer 3,” which makes Robert into nothing more than the type of two-dimensional character that might be in a video game. “The Equalizer 3” has some lovely aerial shots of Italy’s landscape, but the ugly truth is that “The Equalizer” is too much of a disappointing slog of missed opportunities to be a genuinely unique and exciting action film.

Columbia Pictures will release “The Equalizer 3” in U.S. cinemas on September 1, 2023.

Review: ‘Emancipation’ (2022), starring Will Smith

December 1, 2022

by Carla Hay

Will Smith and Ben Foster in “Emancipation” (Photo courtesy of Apple Studios)

“Emancipation” (2022)

Directed by Antonie Fuqua

Some language in French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Louisiana in 1863, the dramatic film “Emancipation” features a cast of African American and white characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After the Emancipation Proclamation frees enslaved people in the United States, a formerly enslaved African American man goes on a harrowing journey trying to escape from enslavers who still want to keep him and other people in captivity. 

Culture Audience: “Emancipation” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Will Smith and anyone interested in watching an intense Civil War drama inspired by a real person.

Imani Pullum, Will Smith, Jeremiah Friedlander, Landon Chase Dubois, Charmaine Bingwa and Jordyn McIntosh in “Emancipation” (Photo courtesy of Apple Studios)

Will Smith gives one of the most emotionally raw performances of his career in “Emancipation,” an intense drama that shows the abuse endured by a formerly enslaved man fighting for freedom and his family during the U.S. Civil War. Most people who see “Emancipation” will know in advance that it’s a movie that depicts human enslavement and the brutality that comes with this crime. And many people watching “Emancipation” might have seen other films or TV shows covering the same subject matter in detailed ways. However, even with that prior knowledge, viewers will feel the potent impact of “Emancipation,” not just as a movie about the Civil War era but also as an inspirational survival story in the midst of cruel human-rights violations.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, “Emancipation” is inspired by a formerly enslaved African American man only known as Gordon, who was photographed for the media in 1863, while he was undergoing a medical exam as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. A photo of a shirtless Gordon showing his back covered with massive whip scars (that are so large, they look like tree branches) garnered him the nickname “Whipped Peter,” when the photos were published in Harper’s Weekly. The “scourged back” photo is credited with spreading more awareness about the atrocities of slavery and increasing the movement for the Union Army to defeat the pro-slavery Confederate Army in the U.S. Civil War.

Gordon’s life story is only known in bits and pieces. Therefore, much of “Emancipation” (whose screenplay was written by Bill Collage) is fictional but inspired by Gordon’s real story and real events that happened during the Civil War. He is given the name Peter in the movie “Emancipation,” which takes place in 1863 in Louisiana, and begins shortly after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This federal decree banned slavery in the U.S. and legally declared that all enslaved people in the U.S. were automatically free.

Of course, the people who depended on enslavement for their businesses did not want enslaved people to know about the Emancipation Proclamation. “Emancipation” depicts this societal problem where parts of the U.S. that sided with the Confederate Army and wanted to secede from the U.S. also refused to abide by the Emancipation Proclamation because they did not consider it a valid government decree. “Emancipation” shows in often-disturbing details how formerly enslaved people were caught in this crossfire.

The opening scene of “Emancipation” shows Peter (played by Smith) in a seemingly tranquil family setting. He’s washing the feet of his beloved wife Dodienne (played by Charmaine Bingwa), while their four children are nearby in the room. Their children’s ages range from about 5 years old to 14 years old. The children are daughter Betsy (played by Imani Pullum), who’s the eldest child; son Scipion (played by Jeremiah Friedlander); son Peter (played by Landon Chase Dubois), nicknamed Little Peter; and daughter Laurette (played by Jordyn McIntosh).

Peter and Dodienne are originally from Haiti, so they know what it was like to be free people before being unwillingly brought to the U.S. as enslaved people. They are very religious and believe in the power of prayer. In the opening scene where Peter is with his family, he says, “What can a mere man do to me? The Lord is with me. He is my strength and my defense. He has become my salvation.”

The family will soon have their inner strength severely tested when Peter is forced to relocate to another plantation in Clinton, Louisiana. He tries to fight back in self-defense, but he’s outnumbered and assaulted for defending himself. Peter’s wife and kids are helpless and sobbing as Peter is taken away.

During the ride to the labor camp, Peter and the other men who are with him see the heads of other African American men gruesomely displayed on tree sticks that line the road. It’s an ominous indication of what can happen to “runners” (people running from enslavement) or any black person who is murdered for whatever reason by a white supremacist racist. Fair warning to sensitive viewers: “Emancipation” has a lot of graphic violence that isn’t exploitative, but it might be too disturbing for some viewers.

One of the criticisms that “Emancipation” might get is that it portrays Peter as “too saintly,” perhaps because Peter is so vocal about his religious beliefs. But anyone with that criticism didn’t pay attention enough to the movie, because Peter actually is no pious pushover, since he doesn’t hesitate to dole out some violence when he absolutely has to do so in self-defense. The movie also shows how Peter’s experiences change him over time: He doesn’t lose his humanity, but he becomes hardened and reaches low points of utter despair.

Peter has been taken to a plantation owned by the cold-hearted Jim Fassell (played by Ben Foster), who inherited the property from his widowed father. One of the men who arrived in the same group as Peter is named Tomas (played by Jabbar Lewis), who is forcibly branded on his face with the letter “J” (for Jim), as Peter and the other enslaved men nearby watch in horror. Jim is described by one of the men as “one of the biggest hunters, day or night.” And the prey that Jim hunts is human.

At first, Peter tries to be as religiously optimistic as possible, even when the captured men around him have lost faith in a higher power and think Peter is being too naïve or downright delusional. When Peter finds out from Tomas that Tomas doesn’t have any family members or friends to think of in rough times, Peter gives this over-simplistic advice: “Then remember, this is just work. God is with us.”

One day, Peter overhears one of Jim’s sadistic employees named Howard (played by Steven Ogg) tell another employee that Abraham Lincoln has freed the enslaved people of America. Peter then sets a plan in motion to escape with some other formerly enslaved men to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he knows there are Union Army troops. It isn’t long before the word gets out about the Emancipation Proclamation, leading to formerly enslaved people on Jim’s plantation to engage in a massive uprising and escape.

Peter runs into the swampy woods with three younger men in their 20s: Tomas, John (played by Michael Luwoye) and Gordon (played by Gilbert Owuor). Jim and two sidekicks are in pursuit on horseback with two attack dogs. Jim’s lackeys are a sleazebag named Harrington (played by Ronnie Gene Blevins) and a traitorous African American named Knowls (played by Aaron Moten). The rest of “Emancipation” shows what happens during this terrifying journey.

Robert Richardson’s sweeping cinematography of “Emancipation” has all the markings of an epic war film, but the hues are often awash in gray and brown, as a reflection of this very grim and bleak story. Fuqua’s direction does not let the tension let up as soon as Peter escapes and faces life-or-death situations from humans and wild animals. Smith’s performance as Peter is riveting in expressing heartbreak and hope. It’s not a dialogue-heavy film, because Peter is not very talkative, and while he’s hiding out, he often spends a lot of time alone. However, Smith is able to poignantly express much of the anguish, fear, bravery and faith that define his “Emancipation” character.

As chief antagonist Jim in “Emancipation,” Foster has the most conspicuous of the movie’s supporting roles. Foster does a skillful version of the “evil slave master” villain that’s been seen in many other movies and TV shows about enslavement. There’s a standout scene where Jim describes a childhood memory of his enslaved nanny, and his coldly hateful monologue encapsulates the fear and loathing that white supremacists have about people of other races being treated as equals to white people.

“Emancipation” is not an easy film to watch for a lot of viewers. Some people might also give criticism because they think there are already too many movies and TV shows about the trauma of racist enslavement. However, “Emancipation” is respectful of this serious issue without glossing over the harsh realities, even though some viewers will inevitably complain that this movie from Hollywood filmmakers has Hollywood movie characteristics. It’s not a documentary, but “Emancipation” is a necessary history lesson that gives people an idea of what many other formerly enslaved people in America had to do to survive in a nation coming to terms with its shameful involvement in slavery.

Apple Studios will release “Emancipation” in select U.S. cinemas on December 2, 2022. The movie will premiere on Apple TV+ on December 9, 2022.

Review: ‘The Guilty’ (2021), starring Jake Gyllenhaal

March 3, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jake Gyllenhaal in “The Guilty” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“The Guilty” (2021)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Los Angeles, the dramatic film “The Guilty” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A police officer, who has been demoted to 911 operator duties, gets a harrowing phone call from a woman who says she’s in a vehicle and she’s been kidnapped, and the police officer breaks protocol to try to help her. 

Culture Audience: “The Guilty” will appeal primarily to people interested in thrillers that have many twists and turns, with some plot developments more believable than others.

Jake Gyllenhaal in “The Guilty” (Photo by Glen Wilson/Netflix)

Gripping and tension-filled, “The Guilty” succeeds in creating a suspenseful story with good acting, even though some parts of the movie are hard to believe and seem too contrived. Unfolding in “real time,” it’s a story about an intense two-hour period in the life of a police officer while he’s on 911 emergency call operator duties. During the course of the story, he frantically tries to save an adult female caller who claims that her ex-husband has kidnapped her in a vehicle. “The Guilty” had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto, “The Guilty” is a remake of the 2018 Danish film “The Guilty” (“Den Skyldige”), which was co-written and directed by Gustav Möller as Möller’s feature-film debut. By most accounts and critics’ reviews, the original Danish movie is better than the American version. However, the American version of “The Guilty” is still a satisfying thriller for anyone who can tolerate a movie where most of it is centered on a not-very-likable protagonist working as an emergency phone operator in a call center.

The American version of “The Guilty” adheres very close to the original story in the Danish version on “The Guilty.” There are some questionable things in the American version that might be more acceptable or overlooked in Denmark because of different laws and policies when it comes to emergency call operators and what cops can and cannot do while on duty. The American movie was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic before a COVID-19 vaccine existed. Because almost the entire setting of the movie is a call center and consists of phone conversations, it turns out those were ideal conditions to film during a pre-vaccine COVID-19 pandemic.

In the American version of “The Guilty,” Joe Baylor (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a Los Angeles police officer who’s under a great deal of stress. Joe has been assigned 911 call operator duties because he’s been temporarily demoted. And he’s not happy about it. The reason for Joe’s demotion is revealed toward the end of the film. Joe has asthma and uses an inhaler. Not surprisingly, his asthmatic condition is aggravated by all the stress he goes through during the course of the story.

Even without this demotion, it’s obvious from the beginning of the film that Joe is someone with a short temper. When he gets a call from a bicycle rider who injured himself in an accident and has called 911 to request an ambulance, Joe scolds the injured person and tells him not to ride a bike when he’s drunk. And then Joe hangs up. Joe has no proof that the caller is intoxicated. His lack of empathy and the way he jumps to conclusions with anger are indications that he’s a “loose cannon.”

Adding to the stress level at the call center, a wildfire is raging in Los Angeles County, so there’s a shortage of emergency workers who can respond to calls that aren’t related to the fire. The 911 call center has TV monitors tuned into the local news to keep track of the wildfire situation. This wildfire is a plot development that was added to the American version of “The Guilty.”

Joe gets some other calls in the beginning of the movie that show how he’s ill-tempered and impatient with callers. When Joe talks to a male caller who’s having a panic attack, and the caller admits that he’s high on meth, Joe says he’ll send an ambulance as well as police to arrest him. The caller quickly hangs up.

Joe takes another call about a computer stolen from a rental car. He quickly determines that the caller whose computer was stolen was involved in a sex worker transaction that went wrong. Joe concludes that the sex worker probably stole the computer, so Joe is unsympathetic to the theft victim. Throughout the movie, viewers see that Joe cannot be an impartial phone operator and he acts like an investigative cop who reaches his own conclusions when he might not know all the facts.

The first big clue that Joe is involved in a high-profile matter is the movie’s opening scene, when he gets a call on his cell phone from a female Los Angeles Times reporter, who wants to interview him. Joe abruptly tells her that he has no comment, and he hangs up. People who work at call centers generally aren’t allowed to use their cell phones while they’re on duty in the call center, so it’s also the first sign that Joe thinks that the call center’s policies don’t really apply to him.

Joe’s sense of entitlement becomes even more apparent later in the story when Joe goes beyond what a 911 call operator is allowed to do, and he acts like a cop who wants to solve a case and be a hero rescuer. For example, emergency call centers, such as the one depicted in “The Guilty,” usually have a policy of using only the authorized, monitored phones to help a caller. But there’s a scene in the movie when Joe breaks this policy by sneaking off to an empty office room to make secret phone calls that can’t be recorded.

Joe is also standoffish or rude to any of the other 911 operators he interacts with, including a friendly co-worker named Manny (played by Adrian Martinez) and a supervisor named Riva (played by Becky Wu), who seems to just let Joe do what he wants because he’s a cop. The only time that Joe is shown being somewhat nice to his colleagues is when he wants a favor from someone. But even then, it’s only after he finds out that getting angry at them won’t help him get what he wants.

Even though he has a mostly dismissive attitude toward his work colleagues, there is one colleague whom Joe seems to care about: his cop partner Rick (voiced by Eli Goree), whom Joe later describes as his best friend. While Joe is at the call center, he calls his police supervisor Sgt. Bill Miller (voiced by Ethan Hawke) to ask how Rick is doing. What’s wrong with Rick that has gotten Joe so concerned about Rick’s well-being? That answer is also revealed toward the end of the movie.

It’s eventually shown that things aren’t going so well for Joe in his personal life. He’s been separated from his wife Jess (voiced by Gillian Zinser) for the past six months, and he doesn’t get to see their young daughter as often as he would like. Joe seems to want to get back together with Jess, but she’s very reluctant and seems to be fed up with him. During a phone call, Jess tells Joe that she won’t be there for his upcoming court appearance that’s happening the next morning.

Joe’s personal problems temporarily take a back seat when he becomes consumed with the kidnapping call. The female caller identifies herself as Emily Lighton (voiced by Riley Keough), and she says she’s been abducted by her ex-husband, who’s driving the two of them in a white van. Through some quick detective work of looking up the cell phone number that Emily is using, Joe finds out that the ex-husband is named Henry Fisher (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), and Henry has a criminal record.

There’s an additional urgency to this phone call because Emily and Henry have two underage children who are home alone: a 6-year-old daughter named Abby (voiced by Christiana Montoya) and an infant son named Oliver. The biggest problem in locating Emily is that she doesn’t know the license plate number of the van, and she doesn’t know exactly where she is on the road because she says she can’t look out of any of the van’s windows. The rest of the movie is about Joe’s race-against-time in his efforts to save Emily. There are some twists and turns (some more shocking than others) that happen along the way.

“The Guilty” requires some suspension of disbelief when showing Joe as the only person who seems to care the most about finding this alleged kidnapping victim. However, the movie’s plot addition of the wildfire happening at the same time does make it plausible that emergency responders have to give priority to the fire at that time. There are some parts of the movie where Joe steps way over the line of police ethics when he plays judge and jury in his reactions. But when more details about Joe’s personal problems are revealed, it’s actually consistent with his personality and past actions that he acts this way.

Gyllenhaal is the only actor seen on screen for most of the film, so his compelling performance is effective in depicting this anxiety-ridden situation. The voice actors in the cast also perform capably in their roles. The last 15 minutes of the movie cram in a lot of melodrama that might have some viewers rolling their eyes in disbelief. However, stranger things and more melodramatic things have happened in real life, so the movie isn’t completely far-fetched.

After it’s revealed why Joe is going to court, a few questions remain unanswered at the end of the movie, such as: “How or why was Joe allowed to work in law enforcement in this capacity, considering what he’s being accused of in court? And what kind of attorney (it’s presumed that Joe has an attorney) would allow a client to work in this high-stress environment the day before an important court appearance?”

There are some believable explanations, of course. Maybe the police department didn’t want to suspend Joe, for whatever reason, and demoted him instead. And maybe Joe is the type of stubborn person who wouldn’t take an attorney’s advice and thinks he could handle working in a stressful job the day before his court appearance.

As for how realistically “The Guilty” depicts 911 call centers and 911 phone operators, the podcast Real Crime Profile interviewed two real-life former 911 phone operators to get their perspectives of the American version of “The Guilty.” (Spoiler alert: This podcast episode discusses everything that happens in the movie.) These former 911 operators say that “The Guilty” is mostly accurate.

Fuqua (whose directorial credits include “Training Day” and “The Equalizer” movies) and Pizzolatto (the Emmy-nominated creator of HBO’s “True Detective” series) are very familiar with telling stories about law enforcement officers who operate outside the law to solve a case or to get what the cops want. “The Guilty” tells an intriguing story, but some viewers might be bored that most of the movie takes place in one location, and the on-camera action mostly centers on a series of phone calls. People who can appreciate “The Guilty” the most are those who use their imagination, because a lot of the terror is what’s not seen on screen.

Netflix released “The Guilty” in select U.S. cinemas on September 24, 2021. The movie premiered on Netflix on October 1, 2021.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival miniseries review: ‘What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali’

April 28, 2019

by Carla Hay

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali in “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali”

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali has been the subject of several movies, but “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” stands above the rest as the most comprehensive documentary about him so far.

Other documentaries about Ali have examined specific time periods in Ali’s life, such as famous boxing matches (2008’s “Thrilla in Manila”; 1996’s Oscar-winning “When We Were Kings”; and 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle”) or Ali’s legal problems when he refused to serve in the military during the Vietnam war (2013’s “The Trials of Muhammad Ali”). “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” takes a chronological, expansive look at his life, beginning with his humble upbringing in Louisville, Kentucky; his rise to fame that led to several world championships; his awakening as a civil-rights activist and philanthropist; and his battle with multiple sclerosis that led to his death in 2016. Acclaimed director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) brings a definitive cinematic feel to this two-part HBO Sports documentary, which has LeBron James as one of the executive producers.

Unlike most other documentaries about Ali, there are no talking heads providing commentary. It was a wise artistic decision not to pepper the story with retrospective interviews, because they would only distract from the complete immersive experience of the archival footage that transports viewers back to the most significant moments in Ali’s life. Ali’s voice is the singular most important voice in the documentary, as it should be. When viewers hear his poetry, over-the-top bragging and preaching about black pride, it’s not interrupted by “experts” telling people what it all means. Viewers can decide for themselves what Ali meant in his words and actions.

The documentary’s title is in reference to Ali’s rejection of his birth name, Cassius Clay, which was a name that he believed was symbolic of a racist system that stripped African American slaves of their original identities. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali after becoming a member of the Nation of Islam. The name change wasn’t just about his religious conversion but it also represents his metamorphosis from celebrity boxer to outspoken, often-controversial activist who had a close friendship with Malcolm X. The documentary shows several clips of Ali being offended if anyone called him “Cassius Clay” after the name change. One of those clips was Ali’s notorious argument at a 1967 press conference with boxing opponent Ernie Terrell, in a verbal conflict that led to Ali’s famous “What’s My Name” chant. It’s not a question, but a command, for people to take him for who he really is.

Ali was so committed to protesting the Vietnam War that he was sentenced to five years in prison and was stripped of his championship title for three years because he refused to serve in the military during the war. Ali ultimately did not spend time in prison, but he became one of the first prominent athletes who used his celebrity status to protest a war. None of this is new information to die-hard Ali fans or people who were old enough to remember when Ali was vilified for his political beliefs, but people who don’t know this part of Ali’s history will have their eyes opened about how complex and influential Ali has been during and after his lifetime.

Aside from Ali’s social activism, “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” also has riveting footage of Ali’s most notable boxing matches, from the most famous opponents (George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, Floyd Patterson) to opponents whose names aren’t as familiar to the general public (Jimmy Ellis, Bob Foster, Oscar Bonavena, Henry Cooper). There are moments that also show the prickly relationship that Ali had with sportscaster Howard Cosell. Ali and Cosell probably got on each other’s nerves because they had something in common: They both loved being the center of attention, even if it meant that politeness and tact had to be thrown out the window.

The documentary shows that Ali’s stunning victories and crushing defeats have life lessons that are relatable to anyone. And when Ali’s boxing injuries and multiple sclerosis take their toll on his ability to speak with his unique rapid-fire charisma, it becomes even more obvious what a great loss this was for Ali’s larger-than-life personality. During his later years, Ali’s spark was still there, but it slowed down over time.

The most glaring omission from “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” is that it ignores Ali’s personal life, which could be a whole other movie unto itself. (He was married four times and had nine children.) But it’s clear that the filmmakers of “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” didn’t want Ali’s experiences as a husband and father to be a distraction from the main story, which is to show Ali’s legacy as an influential and unforgettable public figure.

HBO will premiere “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali” on May 14, 2019.

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