One definition of mixed emotions is when a man’s teenage daughter comes home late at night with a Gideon Bible in her hand. So it was with those same mixed emotions that I read an article in the online publication Rappers Magazine (a site better known for sensationalism than journalistic accuracy) stating that rapper-turned-actor/producer Ice Cube, “will return to the big screen in the upcoming controversial thriller, Excessive Force.” While the “entire plot of the movie has yet to be revealed … reports say the movie centers around the Cleveland Police Department’s racism and political corruption.”
Of course in this age of instant fame and pop celebrity, every city would like to be featured in a film, but not necessarily one with this focus, which explains my mixed emotions. Loving my city and being as protective of it as any other citizen is of theirs, my first reaction was, “Why Cleveland?” But then I immediately recalled the 137 shots and the death of Tamir Rice and my answer to myself was, “Why not Cleveland?” Our cops worked hard especially to deserve this dishonor.
One fact that has receded from memory — and actually never was fully explored — is that during the 137-shot debacle in which two unarmed citizens were killed, there were officers from a number of other police agencies in position on the scene, yet none of them fired their weapons. The question of “why” they didn’t feel the need to fire has never been adequately addressed.
So, our city is certainly as deserving as any other in the country with a large urban population to be held up to the glaring spotlight of criticism over police misconduct — in spite of the fact many civic and political leaders are busting their asses in an attempt to make Cleveland a great place to live and raise families, and I certainly count myself among them — while still reserving the right to criticize wrongdoing.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m hatin’ on Cube, but my concern is that while he was a talented rapper, the projects that he has attached his name to through his CubeVision production company leave something to be desired in terms of serving as incisive social commentary. While his productions, such as Friday, Barbershop, Ride Along and Straight Outta Compton have been big box office draws, they have not been paragons of examination and reflection on matters as serious as police misconduct.
My fear is that he might take the low road and does a remake of The Wire or worse yet, do something akin to the 1973 blaxploitation film The Mack. The point is, excessive force by police is a serious subject, and to make a film that will simply get audiences of young people nodding their heads and pumping their fists in the air in agreement would be to do the issue — and black people — a disservice.
The film, at this point entitled Excessive Force, is scheduled to go into production this fall, and will be directed by Carl Franklin, who has shot TV shows like Ray Donovan and 13 Reasons Why. I guess my point is, if such a film is done — and I agree that one should be — I’d prefer that someone like Dee Rees, Spike Lee or Ava DuVernay direct it, and an actor with a bit more gravitas star in it. However, since Ice Cube stepped up first and put the financing together, all we can do is hope for the best. At least it — hopefully — won’t be a Quentin Tarantino production.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.