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Idlewild - Review

Idlewild

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

OUTKAST duo Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin have a natural flair for doing things in style but while their first film together is undoubtedly a visual and musical treat it ultimately lacks much substance.

Idlewild is a Prohibition-era set gangster saga that owes more than a passing resemblance to films like The Cotton Club and Casino.

But it struggles to escape the familiarity of its premise or the sneaking suspicion that it may have worked best as an extended musical promo.

The story finds childhood friends Rooster (Patton) and Percival (Benjamin) attempting to juggle the demands of running a hedonistic club with the personal complications of their own lives in the small town of Idlewild.

Rooster is the more boisterous of the two; a quick-thinking businessman who has inherited a club and its debt following the murder of its owner by a money-grabbing gangster (Terrence Howard).

While the shy, piano-playing Percival is attempting to make a name for himself as a musician at the same time as starting a tentative romance with a mysterious singer (Paula Patton) against the better judgement of his father.

The best that can be said for the plot is that it doesn’t always work out as conveniently as possible.

Yet film buffs without an appreciation for OutKast’s music may find the movie a very hit-and-miss experience.

In terms of performance, both Patton and Benjamin are fine without doing anything special, while established support players are either ill-served by a script that reduces them to one dimensional stereotype (Howard’s pantomime villain) or that fails to make the most of their presence (Ving Rhames).

It’s hardly a surprise to find the film works best during the musical numbers, when the stars look decidedly more at ease and director Bryan Barber’s experience at helming pop videos comes to the fore.

Several of the big numbers take on a breathtaking virtuosity that hint at genius, especially when accompanied by OutKast’s musical brilliance.

But as exhilarating as such sequences are, they merely serve to make the film’s shortcomings more glaring.

The overall result is more of an honourable failure than anything else but one that, at the very least, disappoints with a great deal of style.

Read our interview with Andre Benjamin

Read our interview with Antwan Patton

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 1min