Rated R; Directed by Bryan Barber; Starring André Benjamin, Antwan Patton, Paula Patton, Ben Vereen, Terence Howard, Macy Gay
A gangster film? A musical? A strange mix of the two? A strange mix of the two is the best way to describe Idlewild, but it’s an uneven mix. Still, there is fun, music, and a good gangster shoot-out to make Idlewild worth checking out.
In the Prohibition South there is one place that Percival (André Benjamin) and Rooster (Antwan Patton) hang out together. It’s Church. No, not the church you go to on Sundays, but the Church that everyone heads to at night for some great music and exciting dancing. Percival, who works at his father’s mortuary by day, is the nightly piano player at the club, while Rooster, who doesn’t work during the day, works and sings at Church every night. Everything is fun and everything is permissible until the day that Trumpy (Terence Howard) takes over the club in typical gangster style.
Rooster is the star of the show and, though married, quite the ladies man. Percival is the shy piano player who stays in the background. Then Angel Davenport (Paula Patton) walks into Percival’s life to shake things up. With Trumpy threatening lives and Angel delivering love the two friends find their lives in upheaval. The question is, will they live through Trumpy’s management style?
The action at the club keeps things hopping in the first half of the film. With song and dance numbers that keep your feet tapping the film succeeds bet when it stays in the musical genre. The songs by Patton and Benjamin (also known as OutKast) are not what you would expect in the 1930s. Oh no, it is a modern mix of hip-hop and swing and doesn’t try to be accurate and that makes it all the more fun.
Unfortunately, the film’s gangster half is clichéd and not too exciting. One shoot out at a shack remains the only entertaining action sequence. The music dries up and we lose the fun we had. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t come up with a plot that involved only the club and its musicians. A nice backstage musical with this cast would have hit the spot.
The cast is decent. André Benjamin and Antwan Patton don’t embarrass themselves and keep our interest. Paula Patton and Terence Howard offer the more dynamic performances, and Ben Vereen has some good moments as Percival’s father. Macy Gay has fun as a singer at the club. We even have a scene, hokey as it may be, with Cicely Tyson.
A pleasant cast and some good music helps make for an okay movie. So, if you find yourself in one of those strange moods where an action film won’t do and a musical is just not enough, give Idlewild a try.