April 2001
THE VISIT : Acting Saves The Day

THE VISIT - Acting Saves The Day

an Urbanworld Distribution
Cast: Hill Harper, Obba Babatunde, Rae Dawn Chong, Billy Dee Williams, Marla Gibbs, Phyllicia Rashad
Director: Jordan Walker-Pearlman
Screenplay: Jordan Walker-Pearlman (based on the play by Kosmond Russell)

When it comes to distributing African-American films, studios look for a certain genre to generate profit. They made a lot of money during the "blaxploitation" days, and made stars out of Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree, and Ron O'Neal. In the late 80s/early 90s they made money from violent films such as "Menace to Society, "New Jack City" and "Set It Off. That genre made Larenz Tate, Chris Rock, and Vivica A. Fox bonified stars. Today we have the romantic genre bursting out with "Love Jones, "The Best Man, and now "The Brothers. Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, and Sanaa Lathan are now gracing the covers of many urban magazines. While some of these films are good, there are a lot of other films that don't belong to this genre that deserve to be distributed. Films like "Eve's Bayoo, and "Daughters of the Dust" are great films that no one saw because of the lack of support it got from the studios, and the black community. Because these films can't fit into the typical genre just mentioned, it is believed that there is no money to be made. Now comes a newly formed company aimed at distributing these so called "risky" films - Urbanworld Films. They want to show films that have a sense of realism. Its first feature is "The Visit" and it deserves to be seen for its story is powerful and cast is wonderfully played out to perfection.

The film centers around Alex Waters (Hill Harper), a young black man sentenced to 25 years for rape. After 5 years he still claims he's innocent. While in prison, Alex contracted the AIDS virus and starts losing a sense for living. He regularly gets visits from his older brother Tony (Obba Babatunde) but would like him to bring his parents the next time. Henry and Lois Waters (Billy Dee Williams and Marla Gibbs), who have yet to visit him let alone know his fate, have been tormented by his imprisonment. Henry believes in the motto "if you are convicted, then you did it" and won't change a bit. After a visit from a childhood friend, Alex determines to make the most of what little time he has left to live and reconcile with his parents before its too late.

Although the scenes are robotic, they incorporate the narrowness of the main character, dimmed and confined. The pacing is a bit slow which could deter one's mind from the pull the film is trying to get one in. The music is lifting, except for a few off key scenes. In certain areas, the jazz score is fine in the background, but in other scenes, it's overwhelming and drowning. Everything else plays fine. While this may sound like a negative review, it's not. The gem of the film is the acting. It's the best work that each has done in a long time. Hill Harper has shown that he can hold his own when casted alongside veterans such as Billy Dee Williams, Marla Gibbs and Obba Babatunde.

Williams is great as the father who believes that society and justice is always right. Marla shows that she's an ACTRESS, not just a comedienne, as we know her. Neither character is one-dimensional as the case is in some films. Rae Dawn Chong (after a long career in made for cable movies) is back in the forefront as a leading lady. The versatile Obba Babatunde does a fine job in absorbing a lot of pain his brother confronts while confined. If there was an award for best ensemble, they would get it.

Urbanworld Films was smart to choose a well-acted film as their start in the Hollywood game.


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