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By Michael Dequina | March 13, 2001

HOLLYWOOD BLACK FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Black and white photography. A loose, almost improvisational style. As if the parallels weren’t already clear cut, writer-director Christopher E. Brown closes his film with a dedication to John Cassavetes. The intentions are admirable, and the final product does command respect; what it never grabs hold of is our emotions. Mettle (not the homophone that lends this bleak drama its title) is the focus, namely that within Ray (Wedrell James), an unemployed mechanic. His job prospects less than promising, he spends his days trying to repair a broken-down truck as his wife Mary (Venieta Porter) wonders what will become of him and their family.
One does feel the passage of days along with the characters as Brown lets the action (what little there is, that is) progress at a very slow pace, which is certainly not a bad thing in the case of this film; as days become weeks, the audience gets a strong idea of Ray’s pressures and feelings of futility. Ironically, while the days seem to blend into each other, the film never quite flows. Each scene begins and end with an abrupt cut to black, making for a choppy viewing experience that gets more irritating as the film goes along. This questionable decision cancels out the nuanced and sympathetic work of the actors; the immediacy of James’ performance and, hence, the piece at a whole is put at an emotional distance by the distracting technique.

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