Spike Lee’s new movie Da 5 Bloods is dreadful, but virtue-signaling mainstream critics lack the courage to tell the truth about it
Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo
Spike Lee’s new movie ‘Da 5 Bloods’, starring Delroy Lindo, Chadwick Boseman and Jonathan Majors, tells the story of four black Vietnam veterans who return to the country as old men in order to retrieve the body of their long-lost comrade and search for buried treasure. It premiered on Netflix last Friday to much fanfare.
Lee has long been an artistic provocateur on issues of race, so as the US once again struggles with civil unrest and social upheaval over racial injustice, you would think now would be a perfect time for a new movie from the Academy Award winner who brought us ‘Do the Right Thing’, ‘Jungle Fever’, ‘Malcolm X’ and ‘BlacKkKlansman‘.
You would be wrong.
While ‘Da 5 Bloods’ does have some intriguing moments, particularly the documentary montages interspersed throughout the film, the majority of the movie is a sloppy, bloated, decadent, incoherent, endlessly meandering, melodramatic mess.
Sadly, the movie, which features a trite and derivative script, a relentlessly bombastic score and painfully amateurish action sequences, is too cinematically inept to have any socially conscious value.
Ironically, the film’s lone insight into race relations in America is entirely unintentional, as it exposes liberal film critics for their self-serving racial paternalism and their complete lack of professional integrity.
It is inconceivable to me that any cinematically literate person could conclude ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is anything but a pronounced disappointment – but, remarkably, critics have been falling all over themselves to praise the film, with some even claiming it is an Oscar favorite.
On the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, critics have given it a staggering 92% score.
What was striking to me about the critical fawning over the moviewas that, in contrast, audiences at Rotten Tomatoes scored the film a much more reasonable 62%.
A look at the Rotten Tomatoes scores of other prominent films directed by black artists in recent years reveals a similarly suspicious divide between critics and audiences.
For example, in 2015 another Spike Lee film, the abysmal ‘Chi-Raq’, garnered an 82% critical score and a 50% audience score.
Also in 2015, ‘Moonlight’, Barry Jenkins’ compelling but flawed Best Picture winner, received a blistering 98% critical score compared to a more rational audience score of 79%.Also on rt.com Spike Lee defends Woody Allen from ‘cancel culture,’ then backtracks & attacks his ‘friend’
In 2018, the middling ‘Black Panther‘ somehow overcame its notable faults to become a box office smash and a Best Picture nominee while receiving an extraordinary 97% critical score, compared to its more accurate audience score of 79%. The 97% critical score makes it the highest-rated superhero movie of all time.
The negative 18-point disparity between critical score and audience score for ‘Black Panther’ is three times larger than any other superhero movie in history.
In 2019, critics adored Barry Jenkins’ film ‘If Beale Street Could Talk‘ at a rate of 95%, while audiences gave it a discerningly tepid 70%.
Also in 2019, critics slobbered over Jordan Peele’s confounding horror hit ‘Us’, with a 93% score, while the public recoiled from it with a 59% rating.
The social justice warrior contingent will no doubt deduce from these numbers that the significantly lower audience scores are a result of hordes of incorrigible racists intentionally under-rating a movie purely out of racial animus.
The facts betray that argument, though, as other unquestionably brilliant black films – such as Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing‘ (92 critical/90 audience) and ‘Malcolm X‘ (88 critical/91 audience), as well as John Singleton’s iconic ‘Boyz n the Hood‘ (96 critical/93 audience) – have received universal praise and are devoid of such large differences in rating.
It seems obvious to me that mainstream critics are judging current black films not on their merits, but on a politically correct curve.
Maybe this biased perspective is born out of fear of being labeled a racist or a heretic in the church of wokeness if they criticize a black film, or maybe it is some sort of pandering paternalism, which in and of itself is its own pernicious form of racism.
Sadly, these critics, just like those public health officials who recently went against their own expert opinions and declared that people needed to get out and protest racism despite the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic, are frighteningly quick to trade their professional and personal integrity in order to satiate the woke mob and be seen as politically correct ‘allies’.
Critics that judge films on a racial curve in order to signal their virtue and moral superiority are doing a great disservice to both cinema and artists of color, as neither is well served by their blatant disregard of their professionalism and their pathetic woke posturing and pandering.
In conclusion, ‘Da 5 Bloods‘ is an awful film but it has done a service by exposing the untrustworthy critics in the establishment media for only caring about their social status among woke elites and not giving a damn about the art of cinema.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.