Rating: R for language, nudity, and sexuality
Run Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Spike Lee has a cinematic voice that gets louder with each passing year. His is a message of bigotry, corruption, and conspiracy. At its best, Lee’s work is intellectually challenging and vitally entertaining. At its worst, it’s an ambitious mess.
Focus on young biotech executive Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), at the top of his game and high on the potential of his company’s groundbreaking AIDS vaccine. When the FDA refuses to endorse the drug, the ubiquitous excrement hits the fan. Jack smells foul play and in grand Enron-esque tradition blows the whistle and finds himself out on the streets.
Salvation arrives in the form of ex-lover Fatima Goodrich (Kerry Washington) and her gal-pal Alex (Dania Ramirez), lesbians-in-love who are heeding the call of their biological clocks. Their proposal is simple: $10K from each if Jack is able to impregnate them.
With no job prospects and the cold shoulder from the suits, sperm-donoring is a lucrative offer Jack can’t refuse. Soon enough the gay female contingent is lining up at Jack’s door for a roll in the hay and a stab at motherhood. Call it a sideline occupation for an ever-changing economy.
Left at an amusing career-altering pitch, Lee’s contemporary farce would stand a chance. At this point the film is pertinent and witty. The orgasm montage is an artistic hoot that lends a soft edge to Lee’s strident call-to-arms, and the “romantic” encounters between Jack and his adopted harem are well-realized.
But too many issues spoil the broth. Lee clambers up on his soap box and chews up and spits out degenerate execs and conspiracy theories with satirical abandon, slinging in sex, organized crime, infidelity, George Bush and homophobia with maniacal glee. His slipshod descent into the indignant underbelly of personal and political malfeasance is off-putting at best.
Much is made of the fact that Lee’s auspicious opus speaks to social relevance and the current state of societal affairs. Points well taken, but the sum of the parts doesn’t measure up. Lee’s bold voice is lost in a sea of snaky narrative threads that squeeze the plot and virtually choke it to death.