(Runtime: 1 hr. 27 min. – Genre: Drama – Director: Malik Vitthal – Writers: Ismet Prcic, Malik Vitthal – Starring: John Boyega, Rotimi, Glenn Plummer, Keke Palmer, Ethan Coach, Justin Coach)
Imperial Dreams, the latest installment in the Star Wars saga, stars John Boyega reprising his role as Finn. Set before the events of The Force Awakens, Finn leads a group of Stormtroopers into a dream chamber where they join forces and battle Rebels alongside Darth Vader’s Imperial soldiers.
Nah, of course that’s not true. But it sounds cool, right?
Not a Star Wars spinoff, Imperial Dreams is actually a coming-of-age drama that came in the door with the 2014 Sundance Festival indies. It’s finally seeing a wider audience with Netflix purchasing it and claiming it as one of their original movies.
Boyenga stars as Bambi, a Watts, Calif. resident who was just released from a two-year prison bid. Thrown back into the wolves, Bambi struggles to leave the life of crime for good and follow a new path.
This attempt is made hard when his uncle, played by OG Bobby Johnson, and his cousin (played by “Stacey” from The Wood), offer Bambi a lucrative offer to rejoin the street life. Both are still heavily involved in the dynamics of this street family and ultimately are in the same place when he left them more than two years earlier.
Upper: Glenn Plummer Lower: "De'aundre Bonds
OG Bobby Johnson complicates things more by offering his nephew $4,000 to make a mule run for him, and deliver drugs across state lines. He adamantly refuses, which causes major problems in the dynamics of this street family.Bambi is trying to do the right thing. His baby mama (Keke Palmer) is in county jail leaving him to care for his son Day (played by twins Ethan and Justin Coach).
There is so much going for Bambi. He has his new found love for writing which he hopes to make a career. A craft he honed while in prison, he managed to have a short story published. The film is often paused and narrated by Bambi’s writing, which provides incredible insight on what is really going on in a man’s head in his position.
He fights. He fights and fights for the right thing. But the hurdles are real. Fifteen thousand in the hole in child support hinders him from getting a valid license. A valid license is needed to get a job. A job is needed to satisfy his parole obligations or he returns to prison. And round and round we go in the cycle of hopelessness.
This is a genre that hasn’t been explored on the mainstream circuit for more than two decades. It was the early 90s, in Bush’s first administration, where films like Boyz in the Hood, Menace II Society and New Jersey Drive were prominent and profitable.
The saddest thing about this film is the narrative is suggesting that not much has changed since the release of those movies. Why does it gotta be so hard to do the right thing?
I give this film 3 Stormtroopers out of 4.
(Rex Walls is a film reviewer from Cleveland, OH. He is the creative mind behind the soon-to-be-relaunched “Rex Reviews” blog, as well as the “Reel Playas” movie review cast on YouTube. Rex grills up a mean steak, and knows more than one man should about “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.” You can find him on Facebook here.)