Amos & Andrew

Andrew Sterling has it all. He’s happily married, he’s well-endowed, he won the Pulitzer, and he even made the cover of Forbes! And now, he just bought a big nice house on a suburban island. His wife has to go visit her sister, so he arrives by himself. He takes it easy and tries to install his stereo. He shouldn’t have to bother about anything, right? Wrong answer. Andrew happens to be black, so when his idiot neighbors see him in that big house messing with the stereo, they assume he’s robbing the place. Hence, they call the cops, a bunch of incompetents who start shooting at Andrew without asking questions. Fortunately, they realize their mistake before they kill the brother. If they don’t want to be exposed as the racists they are, they gotta cover their ass, so they make a deal with Amos, a petty thief they have locked up. If he enters Andrew’s home, takes him hostage and then surrenders, they’ll set him free. But things won’t be that easy, especially if Amos and Andrew have a little talk and realize they’re both being used…

So far, you probably think that this is a corrosive, dead serious racial drama, in the lines of Spike Lee’s work. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. For some reason, writer-director Max E. Frye decided to tell his story as a comedy. That was a really stupid move, because as a drama, the film could have been nothing short of a masterpiece. The subject matter is well though and leads to very interesting issues. The script does contain some smart dialogue about these things, but unfortunately, it doesn’t assume its controversial material. For example, the cops and neighbors are more portrayed as ridiculous fools than as the racist pigs that they are, and the film lets them have it way too easy. This ain’t the kind of film where the bad guys end up in a body bag. Still I appreciated the writing, which, if not perfect, is superior to what you usually get in comedies.

If this was an indie flick starring unknown no-talent actors, it wouldn’t really be worth watching. What makes it a cool is the pairing my two favorite actors, namely Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson. Cage proved that he was extremely good in any situation: romance, drama, action, comedy… He played in many masterpieces in which he was awesome, but even his lower key roles are often really interesting. Just think of “Deadfall” or “Kiss of Death”. Here, he’s far from being at his best, but he still shows that he’s a darn good actor. And man, is it exciting to saw him opposed to Sam Jackson, another exceptional performer. Their styles are different but equally enjoyable. Cage is doing his mix of goofiness and distress with Amos, while Jackson does Andrew as the smart black man who sees racism everywhere, not always wrongfully. Think of his role in “Die Hard With A Vengeance”. Sam is capable of much more, but he’s still very good at what he does. The scenes between him and Cage are obviously the best in the picture. It’s just too bad that the film not really worthy of their talents. The actors aren’t given enough to show everything they’ve got. Wouldn’t it be great to see those two in a brilliant film from, say, Tarantino or John Woo? Still, until that happens, “Amos & Andrew” is our chance to see two great performers working together.