Coffee & Kareem

Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

Coffee & Kareem
dir Michael Dowse
scr Shane Mack
prd Mike Falbo, Ed Helms
with Ed Helms, Terrence Little Gardenhigh, Taraji P Henson, Betty Gilpin, RonReaco Lee, David Alan Grier, Andrew Bachelor, William "Bigsleeps" Stewart, Serge Houde, Eduard Witzke, Chance Hurstfield, Diana Bang
release US/UK 3.Apr.20
20/US Netflix 1h28

gilpin lee grier

henson, gardenhigh and helms
Set in Detroit, this loud action-comedy attempts 1980s-style unfiltered language, violence and hard-edged humour centred around an abrasive child. This set-up is not easy to pull off, so director Michael Dowse pushes everything full-pelt. But the script isn't robust enough to support this, relying on a sweary kid and screaming grown-ups rather than finding actual humour in characters or situations. Viewers will feel like victims of assault.
As their relationship gets serious, beat cop James Coffee (Helms) tells girlfriend Vanessa (Henson) that he'll try harder to get to know her high-energy 12-year-old son Kareem (Gardenhigh). When he accidentally lets criminal Orlando (Lee) escape, James is demoted by Chief Hill (Grier) and the relentlessly rude Detective Watts (Gilpin). Then when Kareem witnesses Orlando shooting a dirty cop and somehow frames James for the murder, they grab Vanessa and go on the run from both the police and the criminals, trying to stop the drug ring and clear James' name.
It's a problem when the central characters are this unlikeable. Coffee is so inept that he's pathetic, and Vanessa merely shrieks irrationally. Meanwhile, Kareem is a seriously awful piece of work: foul-mouthed, leery and violently disruptive, repeatedly accusing Coffee of raping him while begging to be taken to a strip club. It hardly needs to be said that none of this is remotely funny. Nor are the murders played for laughs. Only a crazed car-chase shoot-out raises a smile.

Helms invests quite a lot into this role as a dorky good guy dragged into a nasty odyssey, retaining just a bit of dignity. As the crude kid, Gardenhigh shows some scene-stealing talent, but the role is so ill-conceived that no one could make it work. Henson is utterly wasted in an offensive role as a women who is either sexy, shrewish or unconscious. Meanwhile, the bad guys (Lee, Bachelor and Stewart) are dopey goofballs, but at least they provide the movie's few amusing moments.

Where all this goes is painfully predictable, accompanied by too much high-volume tough-talking and gunplay. It's impossible to know who this movie is aimed at, as it's far too profane for kids Kareem's age, and everyone else will be worn out by its relentlessly dim wit. Mack's script does little but recycle every tired cliche while hurling verbal abuse at each character (and the audience). So when the sentimentality arrives in the final act, in the strip club no less, it feels downright insulting.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 3.Apr.20

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