Movie Review - Blue Caprice

Tequan Richmond, a rising young actor who
gives a great performance in "Blue Caprice"
There is news footage underlined with audio of the 911 calls showing the aftermath of the shootings in the Washington, DC area in October 2002. More than a dozen people were killed by sniper fire, shot out in the open randomly. Behind the shootings were John Allen Muhammad, a black man possibly in his 40s, and Lee Boyd Malvo, a black teenage boy.

Malvo in fact committed a lot of the shootings himself from the trunk of the car that Muhammad drove, which was a blue, Chevy Caprice Classic, a former police vehicle from the 60s, 70s or possibly 80s.

This film, directed by Alexandre Moors, is the third movie about the real-life, domestic terrorism case. The first was a TV movie on the USA network called D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear (2003). That movie was more of a police procedural that focused on the cops tracking the two snipers down. The second was a direct-to-DVD movie simply called D.C. Sniper (2010). That second one also centered on the month of the shootings but did so from Muhammad's perspective, as he practically lived in that old Chevy with Malvo.

Moors' film is totally different. Blue Caprice actually focuses on the time before John Allen Muhammad bought the old Chevy on September 11, 2002. It focuses on the relationship between Muhammad and the teenage boy, but it's told all from the point-of-view of Lee Boyd Malvo. In fact, the first character and the last character we see is Malvo.

Tequan Richmond (Everybody Hates Chris and General Hospital) stars as Lee Boyd Malvo, an island boy from Antigua in the Caribbean. Malvo doesn't seem to be a very social person. He is perhaps shy, but, despite being 16 years old doesn't appear to have many friends or relatives. His mother eventually abandons him. Her departure is not explained. She merely packs a bag at the beginning and leaves. There is a reason why she leaves, but screenwriter R.F.I. Porto doesn't see fit to give that reason. Presumably, it doesn't matter or Porto doesn't want it to matter, but news and court reports do provide an answer.

Isaiah Washington (Love Jones and Get on the Bus) stars as John Allen Muhammad, a man who is ex-military and the father of three children. Except, he loses custody of those children to his ex-wife. Porto never sees fit to break us out Malvo's p.o.v., so all we know is what Muhammad tells Malvo, which is very little about why he lost custody. He never gives any sense of what happened between him and his ex-wife. All he does is describe her as a vampire, which consequently paints him as a vampire slayer.

Porto leaves out relevant information about Malvo's mother. He also leaves out relevant information about Muhammad's religion. John Allen Muhammad was born John Allen Williams. He joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad. He attended the Million Man March in 1995 and reportedly had sympathy for Osama bin Laden's position. Yet, the movie makes no reference to this. Never in the movie is Islam or the name Muhammad even uttered. A significant part of this man's life is shoved under the rug.

Porto might have had it in the script, but Moors could have cut it out. Moors perhaps wanted the movie not to be political, or at least not overtly so. Yet, it becomes very difficult to understand Muhammad's motives or his motives become elusive. The truth might be that there is no way to ever understand the real-life man's motives, but in a movie it's not a crime for the filmmaker to take a position and give a clear motive to Muhammad.

At first, the assumption is that Muhammad is lashing out because he's upset over losing his kids, but there is a bit of a turn or a snap that occurs, which doesn't fit that lashing out theory. It makes no sense from a narrative perspective. If we didn't know anything about this man and where he ultimately goes, Muhammad's actions just feel like they come out of nowhere.

Muhammad hatches this plan to commit these sniper shootings. Furthermore, he decides to train Malvo to be his trigger-man. He realizes that Malvo is a vulnerable boy whom he can mold, but this movie barely provides enough to piece together the genesis of why Muhammad does this. It happens merely because that's what happened in history. Moors shows us how things could have gone down, but never why.

That being said, both Richmond and Washington give fantastic performances. There is a scene where Muhammad teaches Malvo how to drive. In that moment, the movie felt like an all-black version of Road to Perdition (2002), but taken to a sinister extreme. Tyler Hoechlin couldn't pull the trigger, yet Tequan Richmond can. Richmond also affects a good accent but he is able to convey so much more through his facial and body language, especially given the fact that his character barely speaks.

Also, given that Tequan Richmond is far better looking than the real-life Lee Boyd Malvo, it's easier to be attracted to Richmond who possesses a beauty on his own. Yes, his character is vulnerable, but Richmond can also wield a quiet strength and an intelligence that one rarely sees in most movies nowadays, involving young black males.

What's also rarely seen is love between a black father and son or a loving, father-and-son-like relationship. Moors really tries to depict that, but again I feel like Moors or Porto leaves things out. More scenes would have been appreciated that gave us Muhammad and Malvo bonding, specifically before Malvo committed his first crime. For example, Moors skips over five months from the time the two meet in Antigua to the time the two return to the United States. Instead of skipping over those months, a few scenes or maybe a montage there would have helped.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and brief drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 33 mins.


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