‘Akilla’s Escape’ Is a Masterclass within the Duality of Manhood

by Jeremy Spirogis
Thamela Mpumlwana and Ronnie Rowe in

The previous has its manner of catching up with us. It’s one thing Akilla Brown (Saul Williams) has all the time recognized, and in some ways, he’s accepted his destiny. In Charles Officer’s fast-paced neo-noir, Akilla’s Escape, the director turns his lens on two variations of the identical man. In the current, Akilla flies by way of Toronto’s underworld as a infamous provider, more and more cautious of his high-risk life-style. In the previous, Akilla is a 15-year outdated residing in Brooklyn within the ’90s, terrorized by his menacing gangster father, Clinton (Ronnie Rowe), and helpless to assist his damaged mom, Thetis (Olunike Adeliyi), discover a manner out. 

‘Akilla’s Escape’ forces the previous to collide with the current

At 40, the exhausted drug provider can sense that his time is working out; he simply doesn’t fairly know when. Though he’s planning to shutter his Toronto-based marijuana farm to go legit and open a dispensary, his boss and business companions should not on board. Still, troubled by recollections of his childhood and decided to maneuver in a special route than he’s performed for the previous 25 years, Akilla’s thoughts made up. Everything adjustments for him one evening when his previous comes barreling into him. 

In Akilla’s Escape, Officer seeks to do greater than current a tapestry of the legal underworld up to now and current. Instead, he unpacks the legacy of violence and oppression that has swept although international locations and communities throughout the globe, particularly Jamaica. The movie’s opening credit chronicle the historical past of Jamaica, by way of the enslavement of Black folks, colonial rule, independence, and years of corruption, greed, and violence. Taking over another person’s land, enslaving human beings, and leaving solely after you’ve stripped away assets and imposed your twisted concepts about humanity onto them, yields chaos.  

Thamela Mpumlwana and Ronnie Rowe in 'Akilla's Escape'
Thamela Mpumlwana and Ronnie Rowe in ‘Akilla’s Escape’ | Courtesy of TIFF

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‘Akilla’s Escape’ explores historical past, legacy, and the ties the bind us

Without overly stating so, it’s clear that this legacy has impeded itself into Clinton, a “one-touch” in New York’s Garrison Army. (As one among Garrison’s runners explains to Akilla, “The bigger you get, the less you touch.”) The life classes that Clinton wields upon Akilla about manhood are unstable riddles that result in his indoctrination into the Garrison Army as a runner. In his life, the issues Clinton has seen, particularly in his homeland of Jamaica, hang-out him, stripping him of compassion and understanding — making him monstrous. 

In the current, recollections from his boyhood confront Akilla one evening throughout a violent theft. Narrowly evading the criminals, Akilla captures a teen named Sheppard (Thamela Mpumlwana), who doesn’t appear to have the abdomen for a gangster’s life. Seeing his personal life mirrored in Sheppard’s eyes, particularly after discovering out that the boy is entangled within the Garrison Army, Akilla feels compelled to assist him discover a manner out. In the course of 1 evening, Akilla desperately tries to retrieve what was stolen from him whereas making an attempt to save lots of Sheppard from the world that may both kill or cage him. 

‘Akilla’s Escape’ is about second probabilities

Though informed in parallel timelines, and regardless of Williams’ completely riveting efficiency, the previous is essentially the most evocative right here. Mpumlwana, as younger Akilla, is wide-eyed and compelling. He is calculated however regularly underestimated by these round him — particularly Clinton. Rowe is stellar because the seething gangster thrusting the demons of his personal upbringing onto his solely son. This interval is extra layered and textured that present-day Toronto, which is generally cloaked in darkness. 

Though overly stylized at instances, Saul Williams’ 40-year outdated Akilla Brown juxtaposed with Mpumlwana’s 15-year outdated Akilla fortify Officer’s crime drama. Instead of a film a couple of drug deal gone improper, Akilla’s Escape is a movie about manhood, mercy, and second probabilities. 

Akilla’s Escape was reviewed for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

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