Sony // 2003 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 31st, 2004
There is only loyalty and betrayal. Nothing in between.
Where has Vivica A. Fox been? Making Motives, that's where!
Emery Simms (Shemar Moore) has it all. He's wealthy, owns a successful chain of popular restaurants, drives awesome cars, has a beautiful wife, is great at tennis, and wears cool glasses. Right now, you are probably saying, "Gee, that's nice. Emery is a really lucky guy living a privileged life. He's probably going to turn out okay in this movie."
Oh, my dear naïve reader. This is a movie, and thus is meant to create drama. To have drama we need some tension, some conflict. Are you following me? Knowing this, we can ascertain that indeed Emery might have some tough times ahead.
That, plus the fact that he kills a guy right off the bat, might clue us in as well.
Motives tells the story of Simms, how he gets himself into one sticky situation after another, and does whatever he can to slither his way out of the consequences. "Doing whatever he can" more often than not involves throwing lots of money at the problem.
His problems start with the murder, an accident, but an action he's not willing to face the penalty for. There was a witness, though. When extortion notes start to show up, Simms is torn between paying the guy off or ignoring it.
As if this wasn't enough, Simms begins piling problem on top of problem. Letting his groin get the best of him, he forms an illicit relationship with a little hottie named Allannah (Golden Brooks.) Embarking on the affair, under the nose of his wife, Constance (Vivica A. Fox), he performs a balancing act between wife and mistress, with the help of a skilled lying tongue.
Allannah comes with baggage, specifically an old boyfriend prone to violence and looking for money. When he sees his ex living it up in an Emery supplied condo, dollar signs begin to pop in his eyes. He and Emery eventually collide, and their subsequent fisticuffs end with a dead Allannah. Both men deny responsibility.
Simms ultimately finds himself on a collision course with his wife, his secret life, and the possibility that someone is trying to frame him and take away everything he holds dear.
Not bad this movie. There's nothing original or noteworthy involved with Motives, but it doesn't suck away 87 minutes of your life either. The plot is a little better than your average movie of the week, but the actors do a pretty good job (for the most part; Golden Brooks needs to stick to her day job as an adjective.) They're able to infuse the characters with enough believability and energy to make things watchable.
Since this is a noir-ish thriller, rife with all sorts of betrayal, sex, and hubris, it should have some good plot twists -- and Motives delivers.
The real draw to this movie is the fact it was an African-American production. Now I'm just a goofy white boy from New England, but lately I've had to suffer through an unending waste pile of low-budget gangster sagas starring rappers who can't act. These movies are short and insulting.
As I was watching Motives, I thought: "Here is a quality African-American film that doesn't rely on ghetto or gangster narratives." At first I recoiled, wondering -- in this PC age -- if I had committed a racial faux pas just by thinking it. Then I watched the documentary in the bonus features section. The actors and filmmakers said the same things. They were attracted to the movie because it wasn't the norm for African-American features. Vivica A. Fox noted that she enjoyed how the plot involved "flawed" affluent African-American characters who were just "people" and not "African-Americans" (paraphrased). Given what the filmmakers were going for, Motives gets an extra nudge.
Columbia has put together a pretty nice disc to boot. Special features get you some deleted scenes that aren't terribly interesting (it's the thought that counts), the aforementioned documentary, a writer and producer commentary (that is more like a play-by-play), and the theatrical trailer. The film has a pretty good widescreen transfer and a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Plus, you get enough different subtitled languages for the entire U.N. to enjoy the movie.
While not great, Motives is certainly not bad, actually bordering on pretty good. It would probably make a fine diversion on a Saturday night, for those looking for a quick, decent little noir escapade.
I have nothing witty to say. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Producer/Writer commentary
* Deleted scenes