White Crow - Review
The action movie genre has evolved a lot in the last few decades. It went from being mostly drama with a couple of action scenes sprinkled around to keep it interesting, to being a reflection of a country´s fears and sort of propaganda, to becoming master pieces of filmography and choreography. While in the past movies used to treat violence as a necessary evil that writers could do away with now it is widely accepted that violence in movies can be cathartic, a way for the audience to vicariously let go of their own anger and resentment.
Not only that but recent hits have proven that if the action is well filmed, choreographed by experts and just a little backstory is added to give the film a bit of depth then a movie can be nonstop action from beginning to end. Hits like the successful John Wick and even the Netflix original Polar seem to be proof of that.
It is in that vein that today´s script is presented. A high octane action film that never goes below 11 from the first to the last scene, but did it manage to mix all the necessary elements of the genre in the right proportions to be a hit? Let´s see.
David Barbeschi's White Crow is a raw action film with dark futuristic sci-fi elements, set in a dystopian future where a war has left the world devastated but apparently rising again under the yoke of an authoritarian government and some dictatorial factions that are trying to retain control of certain areas through intimidation and murder.
With that background the story begins and right from the first scene the tone for the movie is set, as the audience is introduced to Eli, the protagonist, and his sister Tabatha who are in the middle of an infiltration and elimination missions to destroy a cell run by the organization that is oppressing their city. The scene is filled with gore, wanton violence, futuristic energy manipulation technology, dark humor and a lot of death; clearly not a movie for the faint of heart.
The opening shows Eli and Tabatha making quick work of the goons in the building but falling to a trap that seemingly kills Tabatha and blinds Eli, who is forced to escape and ask his other sister for help. The second sister; Kiara, is a smart but agoraphobic woman who makes a living by performing small programming and technology related jobs while trying to maintain a low profile for the sake of her daughter. Her son is rather rebellious however and his antics, while brave and well-meaning end up bringing a lot of pain to his family.
The set up for the story is that Kiara´s son managed to extort some gas bottles from the local governing cell but then they used some chips in the bottles to make them explode, Kiara managed to detect the chip on one of the bottles and prevent the explosion, but the second bottle which her son had given to their neighbors does explode and kills said neighbors. While still recovering from that emotional hit, Eli arrives at Kiara´s doorstep, and requests her help to reach one of his own organization´s safe houses where he would get replacements for his eyes and continue his crusade. At first Kiara refuses, but once government agents arrive at her house after tracking Eli and begin brutally assaulting her and even her child, all bets are off. Kiara accepts to help Eli make his way through the city as long as at the end her son and she can get safe passage and protection.
The movie then shows a blind but still lethal Eli making it through many different groups of enemies, not without getting some punishment of his own, and managing to salvage his relationship with his sister as she becomes more willing to participate in the revolution for their freedom and even manages to overcome her old fears to a certain extent. The climax shows more than one family reunion, some expected and unexpected deaths, chimeric monsters running amok as well as a temporary victory for the protagonists.
When it comes to characterization and dialogue the script actually surpasses most in the genre. The characters are varied, strong willed, have their own personality quirks that justify their actions even when they may seem illogical or otherwise forced and the dialogue can be quite funny at times while retaining a seriousness that befits the tone and setting. Eli begins as a generic freedom fighter for whom the only thing that seems to matter is the mission, but it is quickly shown that family is actually more important to him, and it makes sense, with no one dear left to enjoy the world he´s trying to build his mission would be pointless. Kiara is initially seen as weak and fearful, a pathetic character who can´t even turn a doorknob to save her son, but as time passes and difficulties are overcome, she becomes increasingly confident and capable with her final showdown with her brainwashed sister being creative and showing her will power and character strength. Even Kiara´s son is a strong and admirable character, so rebellious and impulsive that he may seem ignorant, but once the stakes are high his resolve is shown and even as he´s being used as a hostage he never submits.
The villains do suffer from being somewhat generic, from the hordes of goons that the protagonists have to maul to the authoritarian leader who never quite factors into the story beyond being a symbol for institutional oppression. This is by design though, as the author chose to focus on the action and turn the plot increasingly more character driven. The story becomes more about family relationship and character progression and less about saving the world while sacrificing humanity.
The dialogue is quite good as well, with a balance between being serious, dark and grim when needed and having hefty doses of comedy and outlandishness to keep the audience´s emotional battery properly charged so they can properly react to the emotional impact of certain key scenes.
All that being said the plot does have some issues in narrative, like an overreliance on plot armor to keep characters alive and save them from difficult situation that may cheapen the action and lower the stakes. Hopefully the adrenaline generated by the audience during the high octane action sequence can get them to soar pass these narrative cop out and still enjoy the plot without overthinking.
In conclusion, White Crow is a strong action film built upon the right ideas regarding violence and dramatic tension, with admirable, increasingly strong and capable characters, dialogue that can be funny or serious as needed in order to keep audiences entertained but involved and curious world that would be worth exploring in a sequel, either with the same characters or new ones. Though it may have some narrative flaws it is still better than what the action genre usually delivers.