AnonymousJune 11, 2021 at 10:20 AM
“Akilla’s Escape” opens with a black-and-white historical montage set to Bob Marley’s “Punky Reggae Party.” Interspersed throughout clips describing the rise of gang violence in Jamaica are scenes of an older Jamaican man dancing vibrantly to Marley’s famous reggae banger. This is Akilla Brown (Saul Williams), a well-read, world-weary man who runs a Toronto dispensary for a mysterious figure called “The Greek.” Based on his inclusion in the opening credits, we can assume that Akilla has some tie to the gang life. Williams establishes and internalizes that history well before we’re bombarded with the constant flashbacks that mar this film with their familiar, predictable beats. He is a commanding presence in every scene, revealing so much in his physicality that he renders all backstory moot. This is a man who has seen some things and been some terrible places, yet he feels he must honor his sense of compassion lest he fall into the abyss of those who came before him.
That compassion forms the central conceit of director Charles Officer’s film, but his script with Wendy Motion Brathwaite frustrates by ignoring or downplaying everything that would have given their film something new or intriguing to say. For example, there’s a great scene between Akilla and Benji (Colm Feore), the man who cultivates the strains of weed that has given them success for the past ten years. Now that marijuana is legal in Canada, the government is coming after formerly illegal places like this one. Akilla and one of
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