Monday, September 12, 2011
Christopher C. Odom’s ‘The 23rd Psalm’ requests your attention, with a message and a method to a madness straight from the ‘hood. This the debut offering for this talented writer who also wrote, and co-produced it with Cornelius Booker III. Originally offered in 2007, it won Best Picture award at the San Diego Film Festival amid accolades attributed to the players involved. Does it matter where the setting is when characters are vivid and dramatic in their portrayal of semantics that justify issues that need to be resolved? One can make the assertion that the Watts section of Los Angeles would be perfect for such a backdrop where a poignant saga shadows an African-American police detective, who unconsciously channels his intuition to cope with his shortcomings and significantly solve a dubious murder. This is LA Police Detective John Smith’s story, where faith initiatives are manifested in believing in innate feelings and deep soulful hints to elicit due diligence. But who would want murder to involve a reformed prostitute, born again but died to soon? To get to the bottom of who, what, when, where and how, he first must deal with his own demons until the truth tells a much different story. Leslie Jones, Arnita Champion, and Markhum Stansbury Jr. star.
Alcoholism and cynicism in any demographic will prove to be a bad mix for competence and sheer ability for proficiency, especially when complacency finds a way to be define mindsets. Mr. Smith is a candidate for the latter. First depicting it as an ordinary urban prostitute murder there’s no need to possess a sense of urgency. But when John's intuition sparks a new interest, where he experiences omniscient-type visions about the victim, her murder, and other extenuating evidence. Realizing that he must conquer his fears and doubts it only adds fuel to the fire as time becomes both an ally and a detriment. The story takes off when John experiences a brief vignette of a random murdered prostitute, and 12 hours later, miraculously the vision becomes a reality. Ironically, John is assigned to investigate the murder. With very few clues, John does his due diligence and contacts anyone who had recent interaction with the prostitute. Clues abound with dire results, along with the usual innuendo, false tips, and contradictions.
Tantamount to any good story are memorable characters gracing the setting and a backstory to support contrast, tone and tenor. Adjunct to it all is a doctor committed to his practice, a caring shopkeeper and a ‘holier than thou’ pastor. Each of these characters have their own depictions of the victim. To wit: The doctor stereotypically sees all sexed crazed women with prostitution being a destined fate; the pastor talks about salvation, soul-winning and the need to be born again in the same breath; and the shopkeeper reveals a need for the victim to have had a friend...someone who would have only cared! Like many who may not be committed enough to be persuasive and perseverant, they all try convincing John to save face and admit to a dead end. Time is of essence but much of it spent in the bottle doesn’t help until innate visions haunt him at every turn of the need to look further and go yet, deeper for the truth.
The turning point of the story reaches a near climax when John decides to spend more time in the diaspora that created the monster -- the hood! A group of homeless people in there uses different colors and bigger canvases to paint images about the murdered prostitute that wasn’t before realized - a story of transforming grace on a cleared palette. Realizing that his triumvirate of informers had been far from accurate in their depictions of their interactions with the murdered prostitute, John goes back to them intent on closing the case, which culminates in the denouement, and the film's shocking, if not unsuspected ending! I rated this film 3 stars out of 5. Could it have been better? You betcha! But despite a few flaws where a few interludes in my opinion were choppy and uneven, the actors did a credible job of bringing to the fore the gist of what the writer had in mind. I felt that the backstory could have been more defined to shed more light on the prostitutes prior life. Drama notwithstanding, this is a must see reissue. All of the aforementioned didn’t give me notion that this movie shouldn’t be embraced. If there’s more to Christopher C. Odom’s creative spirit he deserves other chances to show that he can be considered worthy of stepping up to the next level, be it writing, directing or producing. Buy this movie and watch it wherever it’s shown at theaters near you!