White supremacy may be breathing its last. Yes, the Aryan Brotherhood is a cancer in the U.S. prison system, and some folks in the Deep South and the Pacific Northwest may still hope to say “Don’t let the sun set on you…” before they draw their last breath. (Most Americans know how to fill in that blank.)
But by and large, “white” America’s gotten pretty “black” since the 1960s (not to mention Jamaican). White men dance and jump, blond dreadlocks are a thing, and Larry Bird was the most dangerous trash-talker in the NBA. Amy Winehouse’s jazz-singing and Joss Stone’s soul-singing sound black, 60, and Southern, except they’re white, 27, and British. And some black folks ride Harleys and swear by country music. The racial brew in the global melting pot has done a lot of melting. Still quite a ways to go though.
However, the level of vitriolic racism on display in the curse-and-shout fest “Supremacy” feels, in certain respects, a little dated in 2015. It feels dated for 1992, when it took place, even though it’s still realistic in a prison milieu, and, as mentioned, in dwindling pockets of the American hinterland.
UPDATE: Of course, the occasional Dylann Roof still continues to act up. The counterbalance is that shortly thereafter, the confederate flag got ripped down. But a certain candidate in the current US presidential race might be the reincarnation of George Wallace. So the more things change, the more they stay the same. There may be dwindling pockets, but there’s also the great mask of political-correctness that’s still hiding America’s age old race problem.
So, while it comes out of the starting blocks depicting extreme racism, “Supremacy’s” ending is surprisingly cathartic, and has a healing quality.
The story for “Supremacy” was based on a real-life death row inmate who was slated to die, according to director Deon Taylor, around the time of the 2014 film premiere. California hadn’t performed an execution since 2006.
Free at Last
After 15 years in the slammer for robbery, paroled Aryan brother Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson) meets his Aryan Brotherhood assigned contact, Doreen (Dawn Olivieri), in her pickup truck in the prison parking lot. They don’t get along.
Both of them are inked head-to-toe with swastikas and SS tats; she’s got some interesting white powder in her purse, and a 9mm pistol for him. They’re set to take on a mission for the Brotherhood.
So it’d be bad if some cop pulled them over. But oops, one does, and yup, it’s a black cop. “License and registration please.” Blam! Officer down. Here we go. String of epithets deleted.
Well, that was a bit hasty. Now what? Peel out, ditch the truck, bushwhack through the woods, do some home invasion, take a family hostage to avoid capture. But oops—it’s a black family. Tully can’t catch a break. Tully has fear of a black planet.
Who’s in the house? Mr. Walker’s in there (Danny Glover), his wife Odessa (Lela Rochon), teenage boy Anthony (Evan Ross), his sister Cassie (Robin Bobeau), and Cassie’s kid, Jamar (Alex Henderson).
Tully’s a frazzled wreck. He throws everybody in the closet, but somebody’s gotta use the bathroom. “Everyone out!”
Meanwhile back at the Big House, Aryan Brotherhood leader Sobecki (Anson Mount) is not happy hearing that his two minions messed up a mission.
Whenever Tully has to make a phone call, he has tough-talking Doreen hold the hostages at gunpoint. But whenever he leaves the room, she suddenly becomes achingly sweet, lost, and codependent.
“You scared? I’m scared too … why you named Odessa? That’s a white girl name; you should have a beautiful black name, like ‘Shaniqua,’ one of those artistic black names. Do you believe in God? You’re black, all y’all love yourselves some God.”
Soon they’re located, there’s constant helicopter hover; officer Raymond (Derek Luke) tries to enter, attempting a phone hostage-negotiation with Tully. Raymond’s invested—Mr. Walker’s his father.
The main problem with “Supremacy” is that it hits its drama ceiling early and therefore can’t escalate anywhere beyond endless hollering, cursing, gun gesticulating, and heavy breathing.
Another aspect of the too much in-your-face-ness is the oft-recurring grandfather clock pendulum. “We’ve got a ticking time-bomb situation!” it hollers.
The score exacerbates this with constant fuzz-tone, one-note bass and kick-drum pulsing that doesn’t let up. It makes sense; the composer belongs to the metal band Incubus. It probably looked good on paper, but it’ll give most folks a headache.
Although all actors are believable (Anderson less so, Olivieri more so, Danny Glover most of all), the movie’s maxed-out, one-note supremacist screeching grates, and it becomes hard to invest in any character’s arc, except for the little boy and Doreen. And, at the very end, Tully.
Mr. Walker holds up a mirror for Tully. All those qualities that Tully projects onto black people: shiftless, irresponsible, looking for a handout, no feeling of self-worth—who do they reflect? His recognition of himself is the film’s high point.
Given the nonstop ranting and overbearing score, your average moviegoer won’t find the “Supremacy” experience enjoyable. But maybe mandatory prison screenings of “Supremacy” (if not administered “Clockwork Orange” style, then scheduled to accompany death-row last meals) might be useful for otherwise lost souls.
Director: Deon Taylor
Starring: Joe Anderson, Danny Glover, Derek Luke, Julie Benz, Dawn Olivieri, Lela Rochon, Mahershala Ali
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Release date: Jan. 30
2.5 stars out of 5