Tag Archives: Michael Ealy

Brother’s Keeper

The Devil You Know

by George Wolf

A morality play rooted in family bonds, The Devil You Know looks to carve a modern-day Cain and Abel allegory from the ripples of a brutal murder.

Marcus (Omar Epps) is an ex-con who finally has a handle on sobriety and is hopeful for the future. He has a solid new job as an L.A. bus driver, a promising relationship with new girl Eva (Erica Tazel), and an extended family always ready to offer support.

But at the big family party in his honor, Marcus stumbles across something that appears to link his wayward brother Drew (William Catlett) to the home invasion killings that are dominating the news.

Should Marcus tell detective McDonald (Michael Ealy) what he knows? Or should Marcus keep quiet, covering for his brother and hoping that the local hoods Drew runs with (B.J. Britt and Theo Rossi) don’t eye him any more suspiciously than they already do?

Writer/director Charles Murray (TV’s Luke Cage and Sons of Anarchy) layers a compelling crisis of conscience through family strife that feels authentic thanks to a fine ensemble including veterans Glynn Turman and Vanessa Bell Calloway. It takes more than just stoically reciting the word “family” into the camera multiple times to reveal strength in conflict, and Murray has a good feel for this nuance.

Less successful are the TV and news reports of the murders (like old-age makeup, these continue to be a conundrum for filmmakers) and the tendency of Murray’s script to retrace some of the moral terrain it’s traveling. As a result, you start to feel the nearly two-hour run time as the pace develops some unmistakable drag.

But Murray seems like a TV vet with potential for compelling features. There is a thoughtful and effective thriller at the heart of The Devil You Know, and it’s often glimpsed through the moments of bloat that hold it back.

Annie Are You Okay?

The Intruder

by George Wolf

If you caught Dennis Quaid creeping around your house on numerous occasions, would you be scared, or just figure he was bringing over some mac and cheese?

Quaid might be one of the ultimate likable dudes, and his playing waaay against type is one of promising threads that The Intruder squanders in its warmed over dish of jump scares and borrowed ideas.

Beautiful couple Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) are living the good life in San Francisco, but Annie feels it’s time they move to the country and start a family. She finds her dream house at the Napa Valley home of Charlie Peck (Quaid), and as quickly as you can say “overly rushed setup,” they’re moving in.

Charlie says he’s selling to head South, so why is he still coming over to mow the lawn, assist with the Christmas decorations, and find reasons to be alone with Annie?

Whaddya bet he’s not really retiring to Florida, or that some guy at Scott’s office would like nothing better than dig into Charlie’s past to find what he’s hiding?

Director Deon Taylor (Traffik) and writer David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace) are both treading familiar ground, too much on autopilot to successfully mine the contrasts they introduce.

It’s old ways versus new, city versus country, and a red hat wearing white guy terrorizing a black couple.

That’s plenty to chew on, but everyone goes hungry while characters make one idiotic decision after another on the subtlety-free ride to a finale lifted verbatim from a 90s thriller.

At some point, Taylor and Loughery needed to chose a path: logical, layered tension or unhinged, over-the-top fun.

It’s clearly evident which one Quaid wanted, but both he and the film end up undecided on the remodeling plans. Like that old, musty spare room with the bad wallpaper, The Intruder is a little creepy, too often unintentionally funny and in need of some work.

About Half


by George Wolf


About Last Night opens cold to the funky sound of James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” which is good because a) that song is awesome and b) it lets you know this remake has more “movin’, doin’ it, you know” on the brain than the 1986 original.

Of course, both films are based on David Mamet’s 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, though Mamet long ago dismissed its move to the big screen, recalling his selling of the work an act of “a callow youth.”

This latest adaptation strays even farther from the source work, as the setting moves West to LA, where buddies Danny (Michael Ealy) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) sell restaurant supplies by day and hit the bars in search of hookups by night.

While Bernie is enjoying a new sex kitten named Joan (Regina Hall), Danny is still hurting from a recent breakup. So, why not make it a double date with Joan’s friend Debbie (Joy Bryant) and see what happens? Well, we know what happens, but the setup underscores the fact that this time out, Debbie and Danny aren’t really the main attraction.

Whether that decision was made before casting the role of Bernie or not, Hart simply owns this movie. He’s fast, frenetic, charismatic and often uproarious, with Hall nearly matching him step for step in their raunchy back and forth. The Bernie and Joan characters were never made a couple before, but here, they are the only couple we care about.

Bryant and Ealy may both be great looking, but beyond a physical attraction, nothing about Debbie and Danny rings true.

Director Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) and screenwriter Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) want to make their film funny, while still keeping the original focus on the complexities of modern relationships. The funny works, nothing else does.

The Debbie/Danny love story ventures only surface deep, giving the entire relationship a rushed feel that brings no emotion to the highs and lows of their life together. Flat performances from both Bryant and Ealy don’t help, nor does a disastrous cameo from Paula Patton as Danny’s ex, proving once again she has zero comic timing.

Thanks to Hart and Hall, about half of About Last Night is a damn funny sex comedy.

The rest may leave you hating yourself in the morning.