Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In director Carmen Madden’s thriller ‘Everyday Black Man’ she introduces us to her main character Moses (Henry Brown) and when we meet Moses he’s in a little bit of trouble. Moses runs a little neighborhood grocery store that is running into some financial difficulty and Moses could use a loan. Moses asks THE MAN for a loan but THE MAN points out that Moses’ business model isn’t a sound one considering he tends to give a lot his groceries away. Now I’m not one to ever side with THE MAN but I have learned that while giving stuff away might be good for the soul it’s mighty bad for the bottom line.

Soundly rebuked, a depressed Moses heads back to his store to continue his bad business practices which partly includes the employment of Sonny (Corey Jackson), his mentally challenged but hard working and loyal partner, but in particular his bad business practices seems to center around giving groceries away to the young and pretty Claire (Tessa Thompson) who he has been looking after, along with Claire’s grandma Mary (Marjorie Shears), since the day Claire was born. Then Malik (Omari Hardwick) walks into the store. This young man immediately catches Claire’s eye because he is handsome, he’s well spoken, he’s doing Allah’s work and he’s carrying a sweet potato pie. I like sweet potato pie.

Malik is brand new to the neighborhood and all Malik really wants to do is help the community, build self-reliance within his people, and find an avenue in which to sell his baked goods within this community that he wants to help so badly. Something about Malik bothers Moses a little bit, maybe it’s his youth or his aggressiveness but he can’t quite put his finger on it. He can see pretty clearly that Claire is smitten with the young man and this definitely bothers Moses. You see Claire’s grandmother has fallen ill and in the conversations between Moses and the grandmother at the hospital we will learn some things pertaining to Moses’ almost maniacal concern about Claire’s well being.

Regardless, one day Malik overhears Moses begging THE MAN for some money and this makes Malik sad. He offers Moses a simple proposition. He will give Moses a nice sum of money to fix up the store an pay off some bills and all Moses has to do is allow Malik to set up his bakery. Seems simple enough. Moses even runs down to the mosque to observe Malik in action and while Malik’s right hand man Yusef (Mo) seems mighty suspect, it is clear that Malik is doing good work in the community.

Ah, but they say that first impressions are usually accurate impressions and sure enough Malik isn’t exactly what he represents himself to be. The worst part about this deteriorating situation that Moses has gotten himself into is that young Claire is caught up in the middle of it. Moses’ life will never be the same and it’s all because he let that young man with the sweet potato pie enter his store. I like sweet potato pie.

I have to hand it to director Carmen Madden as she has created a very interesting film that has a very good story to tell, is directed tight and lean and is highlighted by trio of solid performances turned in from Henry Brown, Tessa Campbell and Omari Hardwick in particular. It may be to Mr. Hardwick’s misfortune that he seems to be making a career for himself playing bad boys, not necessarily pathologically evil men, but that guy who always seems to be hiding a little something extra behind that warm smile. But he does it so well. And he is pathologically evil in the movie by the way.

The film draws you into the narrative almost immediately thanks to the intensity that Henry Brown brings to the role of Moses and it keeps you interested due to all the secrets our main characters are hiding, the supporting performances from Marjorie Shears, Mo and Corey Jackson complement the principle characters in this film just about perfectly and despite some erratic pacing here and there that caused the film to sag in the middle a bit, Madden still keeps the film moving and kept this audience member engaged.

If I had an issue with ‘Everyday Black Man’, these issues would largely be centered around Moses and some of the decisions that were written for my man. For starters the character was a little sketchy because I never got a decent enough explanation on the kind of man Moses used to be, a past which created this character we are watching and a past that was responsible for the odd life altering decisions he made during this film. If I had a better understanding of that then I would probably have a better understanding for why Moses refused to divulge his identity to Claire or why he didn’t just call the police when discovering some scurvy activity going around in his store and his unwise confrontation with this individual spearheading this activity within his store. The entire character of Moses was a bit of conundrum but I guess that could’ve been the whole point of the exercise. The final fight scene left a little to be desired as well but not everybody can hire Woon Yuen Ping to choreograph your fight scenes so whaddayagonnado?

All that being said I really did enjoy ‘Everyday Black Man’. It was a little on the depressing side, but it was well told, well acted, hard edged and uncompromising. I’m excited to see what Carmen Madden comes up with next.

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