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Well Go USA // Unrated // April 21, 2015
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 29, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Supremacy is about a character with deep convictions -- a racist Neo-Nazi -- yet it has almost no convictions of its own. The film lazily refuses to commit to the deeper aspects of its protagonist's (or perhaps antagonist's) hatred in a futile attempt to deepen its one-dimensional characters, commit to telling its story in the present tense, commit to being a claustrophobic thriller, even commit to being a thriller at all. At times, this shambling, off-beat approach seems like a conscious attempt to make a different kind of movie, and some of the movie's stranger details may stem from the true story the film is supposedly based on, but most of the time it just seems like the work of a director and writer that don't really know what they want to accomplish.

Tully (Joe Anderson) is the Neo-Nazi, just released from prison. Upon his release, he is met by Doreen (Dawn Olivieri), another member of the same collective, who is there to drive him to his first meeting with a parole officer. Instead, Tully murders a black police officer during a routine traffic stop and forces them to hide out from police choppers. They pick a secluded house, where Mr. Walker (Danny Glover) lives with his wife Odessa (Lela Rochon), two kids Anthony (Evan Ross) and Cassie (Robin Bobeau), and Cassie's kid Jamar (Alex Henderson) and her newborn baby. With the cops crawling the area and tension building in the house, Mr. Walker is forced to improvise in order to keep his family safe. Complicating matters further: his estranged police officer son Raymond (Derek Luke), one of the many officers on the case.

Based on the first fifteen minutes of the movie, one would expect Supremacy to be a home invasion thriller, the kind that plays out in what is essentially real time as the sun rises, while Mr. Walker figures out what to do. Instead, the movie meanders all over the place, both narratively and chronologically. A bizarrely complicated series of strategic moves are made by the characters that frequently make no sense. One of the hostages leaves the house and then returns for no apparent reason. Another stands up to the intruders, calling their bluff before walking out, but doesn't think to take the rest of the remaining hostages with them. At one point, Mr. Walker puts faith in his unwelcome houseguests' promise not to hurt anyone and is somehow surprised when they turn out to be untrustworthy. Throughout, we are provided with unnecessary flashbacks explaining aspects of Tully and Doreen that aren't interesting or revealing, and would be better served cut down and placed properly in the film's timeline.

The great ambition of Supremacy seems to be the humanization of its characters. It's not hard to understand the impulse of a writer to give some shades and other facets to characters as reprehensible as a pair of white supremacists, but -- surprise, surprise -- it's hard to watch people spew hatred and then be asked to empathize with them, even on a distant and twisted level. In one of the movie's major dramatic scenes, Doreen reveals to Jamar, the second-youngest child, that she once had a boy his age, and the government took the kid away from her. It's a prelude to one of the movie's most empty bait-and-switch beats, a moment of dramatic whiplash in which neither direction the viewer is jerked in has any meaning or resonance. At other times, the film reveals cracks in the racists' beliefs, such as when Doreen professes her love for their exotic names and Tully bonds with Mr. Walker over their shared prison experience. There may be truth in the idea that some people's racism stems from their own self-loathing, but here it feels distinctly shallow.

On top of all of this, the movie still has to time find to cram in the family drama going on between Raymond and Mr. Walker, which adds nothing to the characters or the story of note. The film's final stretch switches gears again to become a hostage drama, in which Glover and Luke are mostly left to stand around staring, waiting for something to happen. The performances, especially Olivieri's, occasionally find some notes of compelling drama to mine, but they're drops of interest in a sea of mediocrity. The film ends with a dedication to the officer who was killed, but this hacky movie isn't a fitting tribute. The movie's simplification of the kind of racism at the heart of the story only serves to emphasize what's being lost in the translation to the screen.

The Blu-ray
Modern Blu-ray and DVD art is all about grids and boxes. Supremacy's art finds a new angle on this trend by stretching the bars in the lettering of the title to form the grid across the images of the cast's faces peering out of a brown darkness. The art makes the arguably odd decision to show Derek Luke's face despite not being one of the top-billed cast, but I guess he's also among the most recognizable. The single-disc release comes in a Vortex eco-friendly Blu-ray case, with an insert inside advertising other Well Go USA releases, and the entire thing is slid inside an embossed, matte slipcover that looks very nice.

The Video and Audio
Supremacy is granted an extremely impressive 2.39:1 1080p AVC presentation reflecting the movie's stylized, yellowing color palette. Right off the bat, the wonderfully rich grain field visible in the image gives away that this is one of the rare modern movies shot on film, in this case 16mm, and the result is a detailed picture with wonderfully balanced contrast. Well Go USA releases, many of which are digital productions, frequently have banding issues, but Retaliation manages to avoid this despite being shot at night. In some of the darkest scenes, there is the sense that a minor amount of black crush is flickering by, but if it is there, it's so minor it could easily be an optical illusion.

Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is never quite as impressive as the picture but certainly sounds fine. This is a small, claustrophobic thriller, so there's a minimal amount of aural pyrotechnics going on for the track to really show off. It's mostly heavy breathing in tight spaces, and tense dialogue, but it sounds good. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
The one extra is a behind-the-scenes featurette (8:34, HD), which is not a real documentary, but a couple segments of fly-on-the-wall footage from the shooting of two scenes.

Trailers for Sword of Vengeance, These Final Hours, and Enter the Dangerous Mind play before the main menu and are accessible there under "Previews". An original theatrical trailer for Supremacy is also included.

I'm sure the filmmakers had good intentions when setting out to dramatize the events depicted in Supremacy, but the result is a reductive summarization of reality, one that fails to understand that certain things need to be jettisoned from the story in order to focus on the aspects of the story that might actually be explored in the format of a movie. Skip it.

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