Movie Review - Illicit (2017)

Writer-director Corey Grant opens his feature with the dictionary definition of his title. Illicit is either disapproved or something not permitted for moral or ethical reasons. The first synonym listed is adulterous, which sounds like a judgment Grant is placing on the upcoming actions of his characters. However, during the opening credits, he juxtaposes that same title over pictures of happily wedded couples. He seems to want to underline, especially with his song choice, the importance of marriage and fidelity, but an interpretation could lend some to rationalize that perhaps the key to a happy marriage is a little infidelity. Another interpretation of this movie could lend some to think that one doesn't appreciate what one has until it's threatened, threatened to be taken away, and one might in fact need the threat in order to appreciate it.

David Ramsey (Arrow and Blue Bloods) stars as Guy Curtis, a parole officer, but the office he has makes him look and feel more like he's a lawyer. Looking and feeling more like a cop is the impression that most people probably have of parole officers, but Guy clearly makes a good amount of money. He's described by others as a control freak, but he has a lot of old-school ideas about what a woman's role should be in marriage and what a man's role should be. He denies his wife from pursuing her passion of modeling. He just wants her to be a housewife and mother and nothing else.

There is a joke about Guy's eating habits and putting on weight. His wife's best friend even makes fun of Guy about not being able to make a muscle. None of this lands because as any fan of the CW super-hero show Arrow can attest, Ramsey is in amazing shape and is as buff and ripped in his mid forties as any other actor half his age.

Shireen Crutchfield co-stars as Sasha Curtis, the wife of Guy and mother to their 6-year-old daughter. She used to model before she got pregnant. She stays home raising her child. She makes jewelry and does some designing. Her child has gotten to the age where she's going to school and leaving Sasha alone, so Sasha wants to go back to modeling. Yet, her husband is obstinate about her not doing that.

It becomes obvious that Guy and Sasha are going to have an affair with someone that works with them. Each have flirtations with a person at their jobs. Guy has flirtations with one of his female parolees. Sasha has flirtations with the photographer helping to reignite her modeling career. In most movies, either one spouse would commit adultery and we would follow the fallout as the other spouse learns the truth and gets heartbroken. The movie would then be about forgiveness or moving on. Yet, that's not the case here.

There's a lot that pushes this movie toward being another Fatal Attraction knock-off. It never gets violent or as psychotic as that 1987 film. It's refreshing that Grant is able to resolve the movie's conflict without resorting to those kinds of stereotypical and hackneyed tactics. Instead, Grant wraps things up peaceably and without bloodshed or even without any histrionics. There is danger and a scene of intense physicality, but it's surprising how Grant is able to take the road less traveled, given a significant character does possess a history of violence. Two, recent, African-American movies, Only For One Night and When the Bough Breaks don't take the road less traveled. There is no knock-out, drag-out fight here. Grant instead avoids that cliché.

The filmmaker prior to that subverts expectations by not having one but both spouses cheating on each other with two, potential, fatal attractions. It was a clever way to make this formulaic story different or his own. As such, the ending isn't predictable. It's not easy to see how it's going to conclude, which adds a small does of thrill, making this movie's narrative compelling. That and the curve-ball thrown into the mix will certainly have people talking.

For those saddened when the TV series Hit the Floor was cancelled, you can take heart in this movie because a good chunk of that series' male cast is present here. Adam Senn who played the character of Zero, the closet case who looked more like a male model than a basketball player is here as a parolee named Mr. Smith who ironically would like to be a male model. Dean Cain who played Pete Davenport, the head coach, is here as a chef and/or restaurateur named Felipe. Yet, Senn and Cain have smaller roles than the Hit the Floor alum who really takes center stage in this movie.

McKinley Freeman who played Derek Roman, the MVP in more ways than one, is here as a photographer named Lance. Yes, he's the aforementioned shutterbug who wants to reignite Sasha's modeling career. He meets her while moonlighting as a ride-share driver but not one for Uber or Lyft. What starts out as flirtations quickly turns to obsession. Yes, he's charming and walking, sex appeal, but he can flip a switch and go into full, Glenn Close menacing-mode fairly smoothly.

Unknowingly or not, Grant has Freeman echoing his Hit the Floor story line, which was all about Derek trying to seduce a woman out of a committed relationship. Here, Lance is essentially doing the same, but, as mentioned, Grant throws a curve-ball involving Lance and his seduction of Sasha. It's such a curve-ball that it's almost comical. It was a scene involving a strawberry. I wasn't sure if I should be shocked or laugh, so I did both.

Michele Weaver also co-stars as Faren Wilson, the female parolee who has flirtations with Guy. Despite being on parole for what Guy says is attempted murder, there is a suggestion that she was more a victim than a perpetrator. Weaver's performance walks the fence well enough that one is never firm about her intentions. She also provides a good foil to Ramsey who gets to play what he normally doesn't get to play on his super-hero TV show and that's terrified.

Lanett Tachel and Michael Monks are the horny, comic relief. Dionee Gipson and Durrell Babbs aka Tank, the Grammy-nominated singer, are the eye-candy. Vivica A. Fox breezes in as the fierce and fabulous boss-lady who could be a cross between Olivia Pope from Scandal or Cookie from Empire.

Not Rated but contains sexual situations and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs.

In Select Cities on May 5th, including Studio Movie Grill in Chicago.
Available on DVD / VOD on May 23rd.

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