CHAPTER & VERSE
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Director: Jamal Joseph
Written by: Jamal Joseph, Daniel Beaty
Cast: Daniel Beaty, Loretta Devine, Omari Hardwick, Selenis Levya, Khadim Diop, Gary Perez
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 1/30/17
Opens: February 3, 2017
Here’s a statistic that’s difficult to believe: one out of three Black males raised in Harlem will wind up in the prison system. The implication from Jamal Joseph, who directed and co-wrote “Chapter & Verse,” is that the problem originates from the lack of male role models, which his film will tacitly prove by saving one fifteen-year-old destined to wind up incarcerated but for the intervention of a strong male figure.
“Chapter & Verse” is a hard-hitting narrative which appeared at a recent Human Rights Festival, one which has no shortage of humorous moments (especially involving a young White couple at a Harlem movie theater) but which is a plea for parents to do whatever they can to save their sons from a life of crime. Daniel Beaty heads the cast as Lance, a sleepy-eyed Black man who has been released from his twelve year sentence after serving eight and is now living in a halfway house under the jurisdiction of his parole officer, Mr. Marcus (Gary Perez). He has been well trained in the penitentiary to fix computers but is unable to land a job in the field to his parole officer’s dismay. Under threat of being sent back to jail, he unwillingly accepts a job delivering to apartments from a food pantry, where he meets cute Miss Maddy (Loretta Devine), a seventy-five-year-old grandmother raising fifteen-year-old Ty (Khadim Diop). Despite her warmth and tough love, she is unable to wrest Ty away from the young toughs who are up to no good, and in addition is suffering from terminal cancer, unwilling to be treated with chemo and radiation.
As Lance makes contact in the hood with Jomo (Omari Hardwick), an ex-convict who is fulfilling his dream of owning his own barber shop, he works under the guidance of his supervisor, Yolanda (Selenis Leyva), whose mind is on more than fried chicken. As a regular around the area of 115th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, he observes the teens showing off their physical prowess in the playground, taking bets on how many pushups and chins they can execute—the audience betting big bucks on the outcomes.
Since “Chapter & Verse” is under the direction of Jamal Joseph, a former Black Panther who is now a film professor at Columbia University, there is reason to see the film as an authentic description of Harlem street life. Though the material is not strikingly new, it should gain plaudits from Daniel Beaty’s first major role, from the performance of Omari Hardwick, who could be my role model having written over 4,000 poems and excelling in football at the University of Georgia, and especially from the wonderful Loretta Devine, heretofore best known as Gloria Mathews in “Waiting to Exhale.”
Rated R. 98 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B+
Chapter and Verse is now available for sale at Amazon.com. Get your copy today.