"A Call for Blood"
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
Produced by Edward Zwick
Music by Dave Grusin
Editing by Stephen Mirrione
Josh Brolin as Matthew Temple
Shareeka Epps as Tawana Brawley
Samuel L. Jackson as Ralph King
Keir O'Donnell as James Arnold
Beverly Todd as Glenda Brawley
David Morse as Steven Pagones
Avery Brooks as C. Vernon Mason
Anthony Mackie as Todd Buxton
Tagline: "All angles lead to darkness"
Synopsis: 1987 - Wappingers Falls, New York
A fifteen year old girl enjoys herself at a house party a few blocks away from her home. The night is late so she grabs her coat and begins her walk home, the rain begins to pour. Two minutes later a car approaches the girl asking if she needed a ride, they are blatently drunk. The car consists of three white men, one claiming to be a police officer. The girl declines and the driver gets out of the car to approach her. He forces her into the car as the other two men bind her and take her to an abandoned shack outside the city. Here she is gang-raped and defiled. She is held there for four days until she was found in a garbage bag in the city with racial slurs and epithets written on her body, smeared with dog feces, and her clothes burned. Her name was Tawana Brawley, a teen with late-night escapades.
Detective Matthew Temple is summoned to interview Tawana after the incident. Brawley is accompanied by her mother, Glenda, and stepfather Ralph King. King's history was notified after being prisoned for stabbing his ex-wife 14 times. Tawana gives a description of the young police officer that results to rookie cop James Arnold being investigated. She's unresponsive during the interview with shrugs of the shoulder and nods to the head. Temple becomes suspicious and a case is built. A media circus begins and Temple is the face of evil in the publics eye. A frightened Arnold pleads for Temple to clear his name even if it means risking his own. Civil right activist C. Vernon Mason speaks for Tawana and the people. Matthew digs deeper in the case and a sexual assault kit comes back negative. Doors open as Temple now has a cold blooded killer in King breathing down his neck. James Arnold's badge is stripped and loses face with his friends and family, he later would get beaten by King outside a bar. Meanwhile, Tawana hides from the public with her boyfriend, Todd, who owes drug money which endangers both their lives. The case folded in Masons hands once a witness stated that Glenda Brawley was spotted at the apartment complex where Tawana was found. Temple's evidence indicates the items necessary to create Tawanas incident were found, and the dog feces came from the neighbors dog.
A new hate issue is unleashed with Tawana still the victim. Tawana is on the receiving end of the media that results to death threats and her mother beating her in public. Glenda would later be found to be an abusive mother and perhaps the mastermind behind the plan. Believers like Mason still supported to the Brawley family, claiming the case was a cover-up and the prosecutor Steven Pagones was a racist and rapist. They'd accuse him of being involved with the Brawley raping. The year long case affected the lives of many, as well as the 15 year old girl that was the center of it.
What the Press would say:
"A Call for Blood", the name itself sets the tone for this years powerhouse. Steven Soderbergh's new richly, entertaining epic tackles the true story of an unthinkable act turned into a vicious and profound road to the truth through the streets and media. Its documentary-like style and unusual structure demonstrates Soderbergh's exceptional versatility in every bone shattering scene. The directing speaks in tones and every character is under immense pressure and fear. Our story centers around two characters, detective Matthew Temple and Tawana Brawley. We experience their involvement with the street and media aspect of the year long case with characters that intertwine between the two central pieces. The gritty first ten minutes will leave you speechless as it reenacts the brutal situation the case is based on. Although difficult to watch, it's a needed opener that leaves us open minded for the rest of the film and the suffering process our characters are about to endure.
Josh Brolin is our leading actor in a role that's challenging and should ultimately be rewarded. The character of Matthew Temple requires a gutsy, straight forward, and overpowering performance. Some might call it ruthless, being the one man that fought against a convinced public on a disturbing rape charge that put his name and life in danger. Although his actions aren't noble, Brolin desperately seeks answers through a world of killers, drug dealers, and activists. Young Shareeka Epps dazzled us with an understated performance in "Half Nelson", now Epps reaches a new level and becomes the bulk of this piece. If the first ten minutes aren't enough to impress you on the drive and torment it took for this role, the rest of the film speaks in volumes. A young teen that makes her earnings from late night shoplifting. A fondness for her gang affiliated boyfriend and an unfortunate home life with a drunk and abusive stepfather. Epps shows a diverse look on a sympathetic rape victim, turned into a victim of the New York media before and after her ruling. Her inner pain cries out the innocence in this character that we can't help but to feel sorry for her sometimes. Not only the best performance of the year, but perhaps in decades.
In a supporting role we have the always lively Samuel L. Jackson, but as shown before SLJ can bring an evil and subtle performance to his role. Jackson plays the furocious, drunken stepfather that fiddles with the emotions and lives of the people around him. You can feel the tension on screen when Samuel embraces our two leads and the horror they may face. Keir O'Donnell is the victim shown on the other side of the spectrum as a rookie cop accused of being involved with the raping. Shivers and strained nerves cloud this role along with O'Donnells uncanny fear of the unknown, a cop sworn to protect the innocent that gets raped from his dignity and humanity. And finally, we have Beverly Todd whom begins with the tearful aspect of a mother going through her daughters horrific ordeal. As the film progresses, Todd reveals more to her character as a selfish and wrongful mother. She does her job well and that is leaving uncomfortable vibes about this mother we desperately want to care about, but may not be so sure about her.
Rape is a discomfited issue that's hard to judge by in matters like these. The act itself is a brutal reality to what occurs in our society. We can't blame the public for being outraged about the incident they thought occured. Through the madness led to racism, politics, and media distortion. The film still opens many inconsistencies to the truth. We don't know why Tawana Brawley staged a rape. Whether it would be the late night beatings from her mother or father, her attempt to bail her unsettling boyfriend from a bullet, whether it was with her mothers complicity. "A Call for Blood" faces the dangers that result when people form opinions based on personal bias rather than by a look at the facts. Then switching directions and becoming the people they once fought against. It will not be termed a feel good film, it can be hard at times to watch, but what it provides is a thought-provoking, unflinching look at the difficulties we face sometimes. There will a call for blood if this film arsenal isn't recognized as a genuine piece of filmmaking.
Best Picture - Steven Soderbergh, Guillermo Arriage, and Edward Zwick
Best Director - Steven Soderbergh
Best Actor - Josh Brolin
Best Actress - Shareeka Epps
Best Supporting Actor - Samuel L. Jackson
Best Supporting Actor - Keir O'Donnell
Best Supporting Actress - Beverly Todd
Best Original Screenplay - Guillermo Arriaga