Spike Lee is America’s greatest working filmmaker, but Da 5 Bloods opens with a jumbled montage of historical footage that feels like a strangely sequenced Vietnam War Era Greatest Hits (Muhammad Ali! Neil Armstrong! Nixon! Etc.), and then it never really finds a footing but just sort of throws themes, ideas, and gunfire at you for the next two and a half hours.
Still, it mostly works; Chaotic Good is a familiar Lee register, and I’m okay with these slapdash efforts that feel both bloated and also fragmentary, the still-overlong shards of some would-be fifteen-hour epic where he actually sees it all through. He’d never forgive me for saying this, but Bloods is at its best when it’s at its most Tarantinoesque, letting some great actors do their thing and then making some of their bodies explode. There’s a cheap and rushed quality to some of it, but I loved the fuck-CGI flashbacks where aged performers just carry their age fifty years back into flashbacks (I’d take this over computerized, airbrushed, or even just made-up actors any day—lookin’ at you, Irishman), and I also loved the bad-CGI blood squibs in the action scenes, which look as chintzy as local no-budget Newark filmmakers like Bobby Guions shooting fifteen years ago in Dinner with an Assassin.
Newark appears in Da 5 Bloods for about one second, some stock footage buried under a superimposition, but I checked the bylaws of my Newark film blog and that qualifies. (I don’t know how to get good screenshots from a Roku-connected tv, so apologies for the phone shots)