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Prepare to run along the razor’s edge with Blindfire, the excellent gut-wrenching debut of writer/director Mike Nell. Diving face-first into the continual real-world massacre in the black community by white police officers, the crime thriller opens with a 911 call from a disturbed individual who says he has locked his wife in a closet and will kill her if she takes away his kids. Will Bishop (Brian Geraghty), a straight white cop, and Nika Wilkins (Sharon Leal), his black lesbian partner, respond and arrive on the scene to the sounds of breaking glass and a little girl screaming. Will shoots the black man who opens the door with a broken beer bottle.

Then the real screaming begins as a little girl walks in and sees her dad on the floor in handcuffs, dead in a pool of his own blood. Andre (Chiké Okonkwo), the man who was shot, turns out to be a beloved high school football coach as the incident is revealed to be a gigantic f**k up. The family of the slain man agonizes, and protesters come out to demand justice. Instead of following the legal instructions of his superiors, a drunken Will flees the police station in a cloud of vomit. He descends into a world of ugliness as he seeks out a version of justice that gets darker and darker.

Will shoots the black man who opens the door with a broken beer bottle.”

First off, Blindfire looks amazing. Los Angeles has an international image of neon tackiness, and the location shots capture the visual atmosphere of night-lit cheap motels and dive bars with the same eye that Mario Ferrari had in the Italian Bukowski epic Tales of Ordinary Madness. The whole jaw-dropping lighting scheme brings to mind the best Michael Mann titles from the 1980s, namely Thief and Manhunter. Red motel room walls frame the lead’s blue-tinted skin crawling off his body as he faces what he has done and plans his vengeance against those who pulled the strings.

The editing is piano wire tight, with images gliding when needed and smashing into the audience when effective. The pacing is excellent. It is always a pleasure to see the thriller portions of a story unfold swiftly while leaving dramatic spaces to simmer in the depths of emotional pain being caused. It is the twists, however, that feed the fire, with roller-coaster drops that plunge you further into the nightmare, with each development getting more sickening. In a way, Nell’s picture plays in the same territory of twisted justice as The Star Chamberwhere what seems right turns out to be very, very wrong.

Blindfire (2021)

Directed and Written: Mike Nell

Starring: Brian Geraghty, Sharon Leal, Wayne Brady, Bethany Joy Lenz, Edwina Findley, Charles Robinson, Genesis White, Chiké Okonkwo, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Blindfire Image

"…marks the emergence of a talented filmmaker on the rise."

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