A dive into the cyclical violence so many urban (and especially black) boys face, the neo-noir drama Akilla’s escape is a visually fascinating and well-told experience with only one disadvantage: the underlying themes have been played over and over again over the past few decades.
Directed by Charles Officer and starring slam poets Saul Williams and Thamela Mpumlwana, the film follows Akilla as a grown man – on the verge of becoming completely legitimate – and as a teenager succumbing to a life of crime. Much older Akilla breaks up an armed robbery, but instead of going to the police, he sets out to rescue the teen who was delivered to him, hoping to make amends for the sins of his own past.
Akilla’s escape is a story told with passion and vision; Officer, who also co-wrote the film with Wendy Motion Brathwaite, everything goes into it and gives it a vibrancy and power that most filmmakers only dream of. From the first to the last shot of the movie, the movie has a way of grabbing your attention and jarring you along the way.
Remove the aesthetics and you still have a decent story, enhanced by the appearances of Williams and Mpumlwana. Though they never share the screen for obvious reasons, the two are effectively mirroring each other, their stories and experiences intertwined in ways beyond what Officer and Brathwaite put on paper. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the story itself, however – while the thematic structure of the film resonates, the plot details quickly dissolve in the ether, the story is largely forgotten. They are things that we have seen before, just told a little differently.
Cinematic, Akilla’s escape is a force to be reckoned with; as noir, as it is marketed, it is less convincing. Still recommendable.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise stated.