Director Reggie Rock Bythewood’s “Gun Hill,” a BET Network Premiere, is seat-riveting and slick.
The film features the sexy and iconic actor Larenz Tate in three roles: as the accidentally dead Trane; as Trane’s bad boy convict and identical twin brother Bird; and as Trane’s police undercover alter ego, the drug boss Giant. Tate unleashes Bird’s inner street demon, as he assumes his late brother’s identity and becomes the undercover drug boss he always wanted to be. Meanwhile, he pursues relationships with loved ones while unexpectedly having to battle demons he hoped he left behind in jail.
Tate’s character Bird, based upon the renowned “evolved” Black Panther Jamal Joseph, shows off the historic African-American slave fighting style and martial art called “52 Blocks.” Joseph, a professor at Columbia University, and Bythewood believe “a man must find a way to live with honor or find a way to die.” Now airing on BET, “Gun Hill” points to an even brighter future for acclaimed writer and director Bythewood, whose writing credits include“Notorious” (2009), “Biker Boyz” (2003), “New York Undercover” (1994-1997) and “Get on the Bus” (1996).
After serving 12 years in prison, Bird dumps his twin brother Trane’s body in a river and takes over his undercover role while working to keep the world from finding out what really happened that fateful night he and Trane were reunited. Smooth explanations buy Bird time and a new life as he carefully covers his tracks each time he is challenged. Trane’s lover and protector District Attorney Andrea Logan (Tawny Cypress), his mentally-ill mother Marva Stevens (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney), and long-time partner Danny Raden (Michael Aronov) can see a more gritty, tough, street-smart guy seems to have stepped into Trane’s shoes, but his identical looks keep them from truly knowing.
Now pretending to be his twin brother, Bird works as a covert cop under the identity of drug boss Giant. He faces off with the fierce Arlene Carter, a Queens drug lord played by Aisha Hinds, as he takes over her meth territory and enters into a partnership with an underground militia, the Founding Patriots. Unbeknownst to police and Arlene, Bird, posing as the dead Trane, sees there is more than meth deals at stake in the Black community of New York, leading to a successful sting operation against the Founding Patriots who want to incite war against the federal government.
This twisted story of salvation gives Bird a chance to live a “good” life as Trane, the “golden child” their mother and father loved, a man his baby mama Janelle (Emayatzy Corinealdi) respects, and his own 11-year old son Dante, played by director Bythewood’s son Cassius Bythewood, admires.
Andrea “Aunni” Young is a freelance journalist who has written for the Afro American Newspaper for more than four years. Connect with her at [email protected] and on social media @OfficialAunni.
Excellent (4 Stars)