I’ve seen plenty of movies which required its audience to turn off their brain. ‘Backfire’ (2017) is one of a select few that also requires them to turn off their souls.
Note: their brains should still be turned off as well.
I had moderate hopes for a mid-level shoot em’ up based on a promising premise that hooked me in the Netflix description and made me decide to give this film a shot.
Two urban thugs attempt to rob and then gun down a couple out on a date night. The couple turns out to have ties to the Mafia. Big ties at that—the son and soon to be daughter in law of the boss of one of the biggest Mob families in the greater Philadelphia area. So now it’s gangstas vs gangsters on the streets of Philly. Unlock the glock and grab me some cannolis, because I am more than down for that.
Unfortunately what could be a good down and dirty piece of violent, exploitative cinema is not worthy of being called exploitative. It has obvious exploitative aspirations, but is far too inept to follow through.
Let’s begin with the biggest miscue in the story. After the botched robbery/homicide the movie follows the two thugs and attempts to turn them into sympathetic figures. In wrestling terms, these are the babyfaces. What. The. Fuck?
On top of being evil, they are also stupid. First there is O.T., a hot-headed junkie who caused the robbery to turn into a homicide to begin with, and then, when he learns they were connected to the mafia, stupidly laughs it off. O.T. is thankfully beaten to death early in the movie; his girlfriend, whose only crime was being dumb enough to date such a loser, is also killed. I don’t consider this a spoiler, since it is impossible to spoil something that is already rotten.
O.T.’s partner in crime is Jerome, an African American hood who would come across as a mostly likable character if not for the horrible writing and structure of the plot. Jerome’s girlfriend is Aminah, and the other main character is Jerome’s brother recently returned from Iraq.
Once the mob figures out what went down (in one of the most blatantly idiotic reveals ever) bodies start dropping with regularity. For a while the movie is enjoyable as a revenge flick, that is, if you can forget the movie is wanting you to root for the thugs who started this whole mess by murdering an innocent woman.
Note: my dislike of the main characters is not racially based in any way. 1. I disliked the white thug O.T. far more than the black thug Jerome, and 2. when done right, by a director/writer with actual talent, I’d be more than happy to watch movie featuring a wronged African American gun down Italian mobsters or any other ethnicity of people. See Django Unchained for an example of violent blackstoitation done right.
There is a moment in the middle of this movie where a young child is murdered on screen. The child in question is either the daughter or little sister of Jerome’s girlfriend. She barely exists as a character, so the moment is not earned, and is only there for shock value. The scene is obviously jarring, but what makes it more so is how the movie just brushes it aside and keeps on chugging along like one should be expected to care.
It turns out she was only shot with a tranq dart, but you don’t learn that until the end of the movie (see my statement on spoilers from earlier) when what’s left of your brain is already too fried to care anyway. That info is dished out in one of those Ocean’s 11 style SWERVE ending reveals that only compounds the stupidity which had been established by that point.
So to recap, mid-movie, you see the mob hitmen put down the child with a presumed gunshot to the head.
Then the two adults, our “lovable” protagonists, responsible for said child’s wellbeing are getting frisky and laughing jovially just a few minutes later and the same night in movie time. It was at this point that I simply could no longer process what I was seeing. Here I was, on a Wednesday night, wasting two perfectly good hours of my life on this tone-deaf piece of trash of a movie watching these characters behave in ways that no actual human beings, even vile evil sorts like they were inadvertently portraying here, ever would.
The rest of the movie featured more shoot outs and gangster movie cliches, and then in the final scene, the surviving boyfriend, who was seeking revenge on the people who murdered his girl and left him for dead, is taken down like the last big bad in a video game, and the main characters all crack open Nattie Lights and celebrate their good fortune.
After this movie was over I went to IMDB to look up the cast and crew, if for no other reason, to commit their names to memory so I never make the mistake of viewing anything they are associated with ever again. If this movie were a drowning quadriplegic, I’d throw it a brick.
Backfire gets Negative All the Stars in the Cosmos… a zero out of five.