There is a tendency in African American cinema and culture (think Chester Himes novels) to romanticise the 1930s, a world depicted in Harlem Nights, Cotton Comes to Harlem and the first hour of Malcolm X as a time of black gangsters that revolved around black businesses and the jazz and swing scene. These films tend not to deal with the rampant racism at a time when Oscar Micheaux was the only African-American filmmaker, and there was a huge struggle, to make films about black lives.
For the romantics, it’s unsurprising that Outkast use this era to showcase their exceptional brand of hip-hop in this visually impressive film. Percival (André 3000 aka André Benjamin) and Rooster (Big Boi aka Antwan A Patton) are childhood pals who get mixed up in the territorial ambitions of notorious, hard as nails gangster Trumpy (Terrence Howard). It’s a tame, well-rehearsed story that hangs together to ensure Idlewild plays like one incongruous pop promo after another. That the director is music video maestro Bryan Barber ensures that there is always some inventive visual dash onscreen. A glamourous, brilliantly executed exercise in pop marketing.
General release from Fri 13 Oct