Review: ‘Akilla’s Escape’ examines cycles of crime

Crime doesn’t pay, unless you’re really good at it. Akilla is really good at it. He has a marijuana farm, distribution network, men in his employ, and a friendly relationship with the local crime lord, The Greek. Weed has been made legal though, and rather than continue the cycles of his life Akilla wants out.

After putting all his affairs in order, he goes to inform The Greek, but when he arrives, he’s greeted by the barrel of a gun. That gun is in the hands of 15-year-old Sheppard, who is in the middle of robbing the crime lord with some friends. The friends escape, but Akilla subdues Sheppard and is now faced with a choice: turn him over to The Greek or disrupt the same cycle of crime he got caught in some 20 years before.

Akilla’s Escape has at least two meanings in the film. First, he seeks to escape from the life he has built for himself, one on the wrong side of the law, but he also seeks to prevent Sheppard from entering it. Told over two time frames –the present day and Akilla’s youth– the film seems to have a lot to say on the subject but, in all honestly, doesn’t quite gel into a cohesive message. It wants to be about something, but it’s doesn’t quite arrive there.

There’s something about the aesthetics, too. The cinematography is good, but despite looking crisp and clear, it looks… well, it looks like it was shot digitally with little to no processing after the fact. Still, the scenes are well blocked and gorgeously lit, so your mileage may vary. I can tell you I am definitely in the minority on this point.

Thamela Mpumlwana / Akilla’s Escape

Where it really matters, though, Akilla’s Escape shines. The screenplay by Charles Officer and Wendy Motion Brathwaite is excellent (and they took home a Canadian Screen Award for it last month). As well, both Saul Williams (who plays Akilla in the present) and Thamela Mpumlwana (who plays both Sheppard and Akilla in the past) give excellent performances (both nominated for Canadian Screen Awards). Williams brings depth and soul to Akilla, and Mpumlwana cements himself as one to watch for.

Other Thoughts:

  • Colm Feore is in this as a pot farmer, and he is, as usual, pretty great.
  • Saul Williams also co-produced the score with 3D, and it is excellent.
  • The film picked up a total of 5 Canadian Screen Awards from 8 nominations. Mpumlwana and Ronnie Rowe Jr. both lost best supporting actor to co-star Colm Feore for his performance in Sugar Daddy.

Akilla’s Escape will be available on demand starting from June 15th.


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