The best way to approach a film is without knowing anything about it. No photos, no trailers. Just the title and the cast. Trailers often spoil the whole movie, like here, but not because of bad PR but because of a narrow, dimensionless storyline. Unfortunately, racism still exists among millions of people in America. This message is spoken loud and clear in writer/director Krysten Ver Linden’s debut film. We start from Alice story on a Georgia plantation where Alice (Keke Palmer) is enslaved. Alice’s Master, Paul Bennett (Jonny Lee Miller) is a relentless sadist. When one of the prisoners tries to escape, he is instantly murdered. The death of Alice’s friend is enough to crack her up, causing Alice to attack Paul and escape the plantation, finally setting foot on land free from her captors.
A bit like a blurred area episode, nothing is as it seems. The reality of Alice’s situation is far more terrifying than she could have imagined. It’s 1973, slavery has been abolished and the civil rights movement is in full swing. After learning the truth, Alice seeks revenge on those who stole her right to live as a free woman. OWhat should look like a celebratory “fight the power” image is a lackluster idea crafted from a half-organized script. Room for tangible character progression is set aside for standard writing techniques.
For example, when Alice arrives at a stranger’s apartment, the TV stations play clips of various infamous moments from the civil rights movement on every channel the man flips through. How did all of these events so conveniently happen on the same day? Second, the way Alice learns about humanity after the Civil War is implausible. She flips through a series of books and stumbles upon the chapter on the Emancipation Proclamation? When Alice enters that same stranger’s truck, she transforms into a Black Panther night, ready to take on the man. It’s hard to buy because Alice was a petrified mess moments earlier. At least the image carries Keke Palmer’s performance.
Mrs. Palmer must show her whole heart. The intensity it brings excels beyond the script. Time and again, Mrs. Palmer has to react to startling news. Not a moment on Keke Palmer’s face rings true. Rapper Common is alongside Ms. Palmer. He plays Frank, a caring protector who watches over Alice. Unable to handle Alice’s disconnect with the modern world, Frank does what he can to help her adjust. Common comes across as a kind-hearted man with a tormented soul. It’s the ordinary exhausted blue collar with a heart of gold. Frank’s generosity exists due to a troubled family past that doesn’t go into deeper detail other than two lines of dialogue. Nevertheless, forget all that family drama; let’s move on to this sweet revenge against Paul, the false owner of the plantation.
Alice’s revenge is fast, too fast, in fact. Watching the big bad get what he deserves is thankless when it should be exhilarating. Check out Quentin Tarantino’s retro revenge movies. Tarantino incorporates his elegantly slick dialogue into his antagonists. Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) of Inglourious Basterds slowly gets under the audience’s skin with her fake smile. For an instant visceral reaction, Calvin Candie by Leondardo DiCaprio, in Django Unchained is unbearable to listen to or watch, but you have to for long periods of time.
The accumulation of revenge on these evildoers is nerve-wracking. However, when it comes down to it, the delivery is magnificent with one-liners and bloody kills that elicit a genuine sense of joy from the audience as the antagonists of the company find themselves screaming in pain. Unfortunately, not everyone can be a writer as smart as Quentin Tarantino.
Alice is all the buildup for a firework that ends with a mere pinch. The retribution is unrewarding as the script rams the final two acts through the door. When the film went black, I said, “is that it?” aloud. With a little more time to iron out Frank’s troubled family past and Alice’s 1973 adaptation becoming more established, Alice might have some potential. The trailer certainly grabs attention. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen the previews, you don’t need to see the movie. Alice does not function as a retroactive social justice film, nor as a satirical revenge film. It simply exists as a video available to rent on your local streaming service someday. Most likely Tubi. For now you can catch Alice at your local theatre.