Thursday, December 03, 2020

ADIFF ’20: Mr. Weekend

No film noir anti-hero ever starts a movie in media res to marvel at all the shrewd decisions they just made. That is especially true of Charlie Jenkins, a small-time under-bookie, who handles payouts and collections for his far more powerful and dangerous boss, Big Slim Fizz. He tries to turn a bad collection into a big score, but obviously he is in over his head in director-screenwriter-producer McKenzie Woodward’s Mr. Weekend, which screens virtually as part of the 2020 NY African Diaspora International Film Festival.

Jenkins always liked old-school gun-dealer Hyman Steinberg, even though he is always especially reluctant to pay up. However, booking a ticket to Thailand when you owe $67K is definitely a no-no. Worry not, he assures Jenkins, because he has a multi-million-dollar bag of crystal LSD to flip. However, when Jenkins returns, Steinberg is in the process of being murdered, so instead, he sneaks away with the drugs under their noses.

Naturally, Jenkins wants to move the illicit merch fast, so he can run-off with his prostitute girlfriend, Nora Fiddledown, even though some very angry people are out there looking for the drugs. He also has to settle Steinberg’s debt, to keep Big Slim Fizz off his back. It sounds like a great plan, but we know things get dicey from the prologue.

Mr. Weekend
hooks viewers right from the start, with one of the best opening credit sequences in years, thanks to its clever title design, accompanied by Mulatu Astatke’s eternally cool “Tezeta.” Woodward maintains the vibe impressively, immersing us in Jenkins’ dodgy bookmaking milieu. The film nails the noir elements, notably including Jenkins’ cynical narration and Evan Avtal’s super-slick black-and-white cinematography.

Admittedly, we have a pretty good idea how this will end, but the set-up is terrific. Willie Wright III keeps us rooting for Jenkins, even when he makes us cringe. Spencer Tatum provides comic relief that is actually funny, as Jenkins’ stoner client, Blake Lumbuster, while Peter D. Michael adds plenty of wry, grizzled attitude as Steinberg. Plus, Nick Thomas and E.R. Ruiz are both intense and intimidating, in the right noir caper kind of way, as Big Slim Fizz and Jake D. Morrow, the thug who was supposed to shake lose the drugs from Steinberg.

The whole film just oozes vintage noir style, even when Woodward goes in for deliberately retro effects. It is a ton of fun that looks and sounds pitch-perfect. Very highly recommended for film noir fans,
Mr. Weekend screens virtually today through Tuesday (12/8), as part of this year’s ADIFF.