John Sayles' films are always a blessing in the midst of aggressive independent flicks that can sometimes be mean-spirited and tawdry. This early effort from Sayles, starring his regular ensemble member Joe Morton as the Brother from Another Planet, is interesting at times, but curiously falls flat for most of the duration. It is disappointing, given the material Sayles has to work with, and with a strong ensemble- including himself and David Straitharn as inter-planetary immigration officials- but we don't get any real insight into the theme at hand, which is racial prejudice in Contemporary American Society. The film is basically lifeless, for the most part, and the usual send-up of Sayles' montage of bar conversations interlocked with scenes of other conversations don't add any gusto to a thin plot. I never really cared about the plight of Morton's alien character, or what he symbolized, because I never got the feeling the film was that interested in him except as a leading narrative to probe what other ethnicities/races have to say about life. All in all, the character was used for voyeuristic purposes into societal conversations. I kept asking myself, "Why have the alien in this movie at all, and focus instead on a fragment of people living in a New York City Burrough?" These kinds of films can actually be very stimulating- they're called Robert Altman films.
This indie from John Sayles (made for $350,000) explores the experiences of a black runaway slave from another planet. He lands in Harlem, but is soon pursued by two white guys in black suits (slave hunters trying to return him to his home planet). Sorta reminds me of the bad guys in Blade Runner. A comedy/fantasy that explores the immigrant experience as he is himself is an immigrant to earth trying to learn how to cope in an alien society. This is a rare realistic look of African-American life in a period when white Hollywood would only finance black experiences set in Blaxploitation films. Look for the "we don't need badges" line taken from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. This DVD version has a 1.33 aspect ratio, perhaps cropped for television (IMDb states that the original ratio is 1.85).
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