Akilla’s Escape Review – Excellent, Explosive Character Driven Performances

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Akilla's Escape, from Vertical Entertainment, brings to the screen a vivid portrayal of street life as a young urban Jamaican American teen fighting against gangs, poverty, generational violence, and the system to escape the spiral is pulled back into it.

The film opens with a media splash of headlines from Jamaican with a soundtrack of reggae music. The audience clearly understands the Jamaican migration and the violence which initiated it. Immediately we see an establishing shot of New York City.

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Like many immigrants the belief of the new life doesn't always go like the fantasy. The next scene we are in a NYPD interrogation room. Shepperd, played by Thamela Mpumlwana, at 15, is street wise, indoctrination into the gangs, and now being question for the death of his father.

This is when we meet Akilla, played by Saul Williams, who at forty-years-old, and for the first time in his life, the cannabis grow operation he runs is legit. Only one year into government approved legislation, the pendulum of hypocrisy swings and as government funded dispensaries pop up throughout the city. he decides it's time to cash out.

While making a routine delivery he returns to the dispensary, opens the door, and is looking down into a double barrel shotgun.

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The robbery goes bad and after the thieves takes the cash and the weed, a fight breaks out, and the robbers, who are also armed with machetes beat one of the workers with the knife. The dispensary has state of the art security, and they understand it was an inside job.

With Akilla still staring at the shotgun, the hommies tell him "to kill that motherfucker." The two stare at each other until Akilla moves quickly and knocks him out. He pulls off the mask and sees it is a kid.

He calls in the muscle, and soon they are trying to force the kid to talk. They discover a tattoo on his chest. Akilla understands the significance of the tattoo. It is a mark of the Garrison Army, a Jamaican crime syndicate his grandfather founded.

He must now wrestle with the same moral conscience, that propelled him to flee the cycle of violence years ago. In his effort to secure the return of the weed and the money, he is once again pulled into the deep unconscionable violence.

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These young gang members are more than street thugs and the life of violence, murder, drugs, and control, has cemented them into a three-tiered hierarchy of gang life. For our boy Shepperd, he is still working his way up and with each hijack and robbery he moves up the ladder and off the streets.

The film mixes the modern legal dispensary life, and rings of Glenn Fry's Smuggler's Blues, no matter the legality with weed and money, both in abundance, guns become part of the equation, and provides a vivid, poignant portrayal of the challenges many confront when fighting the stereotype, and the system and those who will go to any length to imprison.

The cast captures the essence of the characters and the investment in the storyline is immediate. The story speaks to the historical criminalization and racial profiling that modern society often overlooks. The climatic ending presents a symbolic gesture of rebirth, freedom, and hope.

Akilla's Escape an excellent character driven story with explosive breakout  performances, an Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival and nominated for seven Canadian Screen Awards, opens in select theaters and digitally June 11, 2021. See it.

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Country: USA, Canada.

Release Date: June 11, 2021.

Runtime: 90minutes.

Director: Charles Officer.

Writer: Charles Officer, Motion.

Producer: Jake Yanowski, Charles Officer.

Cast: Saul Williams, Thamela Mpumlwana, Donisha Premoergast Shomari Downer, Olunike Adeliyi, Ronnie Rowe Jr., Col Feore, Bruce Ramsay, Vic Mensa.

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