Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I could watch almost anything with my lovely wife of numerous years and she can turn whatever it is we’re watching into a personal situation. Some guy on television thinks about cheating on his wife and I know with 100% certainty that I’m going get ‘Do you think like that?’ or some dude will talk about how he likes to play with monkeys and I’ll get ‘Do you like to play with monkeys?’. She always gets the same answer of ‘No Dear, it’s a television show’, but it doesn’t stop her from consistently asking. Imagine my horror after seeing director Bill Duke’s latest film ‘Cover’ which is murder mystery of sorts with the central focus being brothers who like to get down on the Down Low. Fortunately my wife hasn’t seen the movie, but she will especially since it has a cast that features virtually every veteran Black actor not named Will, Denzel, Laurence or Samuel L., and my wife doesn’t miss any Black Movies. When she does see it boy am I going to have a lot stupid questions to answer, and to preempt this allow me to say that I have no earthly idea what ‘You have something in your eye, do you want me blow it out for you?’ means.

Our film opens with a shooting. Who’s dead and who was doing the capping is the mystery but Valerie Mass (Aunjanue Ellis) is being dragged in cuffs by an ambitious Assistant D.A played by Clifton Davis through a throng of hungry reporters who informs Valerie’s lawyer played by Obba Babbatunde that he has motive, a weapon and opportunity so this case is all but closed. Valerie protests her innocence, though the grizzled police detective played by Louis Gossett Jr. has some serious doubts. He sits in the interrogation room with Valerie and her lawyer and asks her to go through her tale, which I’m pretty certain no lawyer worth their salt would never allow any client of theirs to do, no matter how much they doth proclaim their innocence.

Valerie and her psychiatrist husband Dutch (Raz Adoti) have relocated with their young daughter from the ATL to Philly with the promise of a great job from Dutch’s

married college buds Kevin (Roger Guenveur Smith) and Monica (Paula Jai White). Something weird is going on between those three Valerie observes, and the weirdness gets even higher when another old classmate in RnB soul star Ryan Chambers (Leon) gets into the mix. Valerie isn’t too terribly concerned because she has a great husband, a wonderful daughter and through her spicy best friend Zahara (Vivica A. Fox) has found a great church home. It all goes down hill when good girl Valerie finds a condom in her husbands wallet. I should mention that our husband GAVE the wallet to his wife and perhaps that wasn’t the best move if one insists on housing condoms in there, but there you go. Now Valerie is a nervous wreck and her best friend Zahara is fueling her suspicions since she possesses a basic mistrust of all men anyway. Eventually Valerie will learn the truth about her husband, a truth that she is in no way prepared to deal with that will shake her faith, fracture her world and tragically lead to murder with Valerie being suspect number one.

I’m a big admirer of the work of Bill Duke with his film ‘Deep Cover’ being one my favorite films ever and his cameo in the movie ‘The Limey’ being one my favorite scenes ever. But ‘Cover’…. Hmmm…. Let’s just say that even though I found the film entertaining, some times extremely so, it sure is silly. What makes the movie so damned entertaining is that all of the actors seem to be having a hell of a lot fun with their roles and take off running with them, never to return. The script is filled with more caricatures than characters with Valerie being as pure as purest snow, Ms. Fox’s character serving up the typical neck swaying spicy girl, Clayton Prince – Black Ninja himself – as the Gay Guy and if anybody thinks they can chew up scene better than Roger Guenveur Smith can, I’d like to see them try. But the movie may be worth watching just to see actor Leon as the salty soul singer in a performance that was so over-the-top that merely talking about it would do it an injustice. It seems to me that only Raz Adoti was given the opportunity to play a legitimate character who had a real emotional arc throughout the film and the actor did a very good job delivering the numerous stages of this characters life and his myriad of personal issues.

The plotting of the so-called ‘mystery’ was fairly nonsensical since the setup and delivery of said mystery was almost infantile and probably could have been discarded completely since the story is more about Valerie’s life and betrayal way more than this mystery we’re subjected to. And the resolution to the mystery was completely ridiculous because if all cases ended like this one did the prosecution success rate would be around 110%, even though it would appear, once we know what will know, that they should have solved this case damn near immediately. You would think at least.

‘Cover’ is interesting in that it is a film that is uniquely African American in a lot of parts, which is a good thing, and it centers around an issue that I’ve heard of, and have on good authority that it actually exists, but still have some trouble accepting because it is so dangerously vile. The film itself is uneven, overly melodramatic and totally implausible with a lot its situations but if you try to turn it off I don’t think you’ll be able to do it because it is so incredibly watchable. But thanks to this movie the next time some brother asks me if I have something in my eye, he’s getting dropped. And I might actually have something in my eye.

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