I've lost count of the number of titles I've reviewed that have starred Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. They're usually hokey, moronic tales of gangster violence, but here's a much different role for the rapper turned actor. Here Jackson takes on the starring role of Deon, an All-American running back who has big hopes of going in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Deon has been coddled since he was playing Pee-Wee football. Everyone knew he had a gift, and when he got older the gift became more pronounced. All the coddling led to a very spoiled and selfish person. Deon had everything. He owned the college campus, he got any girl he desired, and he had the promise of millions as soon as he was drafted into the pros.
That's where the title 'All Things Fall Apart' comes into play. Deon gets diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. His playing days are over. Here's where the movie actually excels. I was surprised to see Jackson's transformation from a big, burly football player, to a skinny cancer patient riddled with the after effects of chemotherapy. The physical transformation is jarring and I don't know how they pulled it off. I hoped that there would be some special feature telling me exactly how they made it all work, but there isn't. Jackson is absolutely huge during his football playing days. Massive arms and chest. After some time with the chemo, however, his muscles whittle away to nothing. He looks deathly skinny. How they got this transformation to seem so seamless, I have no idea, but it works tremendously.
The movie is directed by Mario Van Peebles ('Baadasssss!') who also plays the part of Deon's step dad. Peebles, along with his writing team of Jackson and Brian A. Miller – who incidentally wrote the terrible 'House of the Rising Sun' – have pieced together a sort of emotional cancer drama here. They've placed in a nice little conflict between Deon and his brother Sean (Cedric Sanders). Deon has had everything handed to him because of his talent, whereas Sean has been largely ignored even though he's doing well in school and has goals to get a steady job.
Sadly though, as much as the movie's title is true to what happens in the movie, it's also true of the movie itself. Where things fall apart is when Jackson, Miller, and Peebles steer the movie away from the effective story of Deon's cancer to a litany of social issues that seem jammed into the screenplay with a heavy hand. Everything from racial issues, socioeconomic status of black people, the economy and the unfair healthcare system is picked on here. While many of these issues have some weight behind them, there's no point in throwing them around in this movie. All it does is balloon an already bloated runtime to nearly two hours. There's no reason why this movie should be stretched to two hours long, but its heavy-handed moralizing does just that. It seems that whenever you start to actually connect with the characters they step out of the scene to explain some other social injustice that has nothing to do with Deon's plight as a cancer patient. At one point we're lectured to by Ray Liotta, who plays a doctor, about how secretly hospitals are looking to screw everyone no matter what and he's just the doctor that has to work within the broken system. All I could think during this misguided diatribe was that they were filming this scene outside of the hospital set where 'Scrubs' was filmed. Now, I'm not saying that these issues are real; I'm saying that they're inserted into this movie without any sense of why they're there. They feel out of place and mishandled to the point that even if you agree with the points being put across you'll still feel like they're blubbering on and on for no real reason.
I actually enjoyed Jackson's performance here for the most part. The physical transformation that takes place here is astounding. It really is. I was trying to figure out how they did it, but like I said, I honestly have no idea. At first I thought body doubles, but thought there's just no way. If they'd stuck with the strongest part of the movie and kept it to a brisk running time, I think this movie would have been much better. As it is, it tries to cover every injustice that has ever been perpetrated by society all the while trying to deal with a personal cancer story. Pick one and go with it, or everything will indeed fall apart.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Image Entertainment release is packaged in a Blu-ray keepcase and has been pressed on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. The case indicates a Region A coding.
The 1080p picture of 'All Things Fall Apart' looks quite good. It's very cinematic. Detail, lighting and delineation are all very well done.
Fine detail works well here, almost too well at times. There's a hilarious sequence where Deon's team is playing inside a dome, but you can tell all they've done is lay a green carpet down on what appears to be a basketball court. You can actually see where the carpet bubbles up in places. Oh the restraints of a small budget. Facial detail is top-notch here, providing intricate pores, smile lines, and furrowed brows so that we can tell what's going on in the minds of the characters.
Color is reproduced well, although there movie has been saturated in post-production, which is often confused with making the film look more dramatic. All it usually does it what it does here and makes skin tones skew towards a bronzed look.
Darker scenes don't feature much noise or crushing shadows. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and delineation of the shadows in this movie. They provide a depth to the picture and rarely crush out the finer details. Image is usually hit and miss with their releases, but this one is a hit.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a little anemic, considering the fact that we're dealing with a lot of football scenes which should produce some hard-hitting sound. Instead the football scenes don't produce what you'd call hard-hitting sound. It tries, but there's no low-end oomph behind many of the hits.
The dialogue is produced well, but some of Jackson's mumbled lines get lost in the fray, especially when a hip-hop song is blaring on the soundtrack. The rear speakers are fairly quiet even during the action-packed football scenes or during raucous parties. I wasn't a big fan of this track because it could've been so much better.
There are a lot of missed opportunities to make this sound as good as the video looks.
This is where I was hoping we'd get at least a short making-of featuring the process behind Jackson's transformation, but nothing. Not one feature of note to announce here.
'All Things Fall Apart' gets lost in trying to address every social problem in American society and loses its focus on the true center of its story as a result. I thought Jackson's performance here was believable. No he doesn't live up to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's masterful portrayal of a cancer patient in '50/50', but seeing as I had low expectations for this movie I was surprised to say the least when I found myself caring about Deon. I just wish this movie cared more about him instead of wandering off on so many tangents that it watered down the one element that was working for it. It may be worth a look if you're interested.