Friday, August 28, 2020

DVD Review - Emperor (2020)

Briarcliff Entertainment planned on releasing the film Emperor (PG-13; 100 mins) back in March, but like many 2020 movies, COVID-19 interfered. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment picked up the distribution rights and released it on DVD earlier this month.

Mark Amin makes his directing debut in this western action-drama, which he co-wrote with Pat Charles. The film tells the fictionalized story of the real-life pre-Civil War folk hero Shields "Emperor" Green, who participated in John Brown's failed Harpers Ferry Raid in 1859. Keep in mind that I said "fictionalized," as the movie plays loose with actual events. 

In the film, Dayo Okeniyi stars as Shields “Emperor” Green, a descendant of African kings who has a supervisor type role on a plantation until his owner loses the farm in a poker match to Randolph Stevens (played by M.C. Gainey). Shields learns pretty quickly that his new owner is a racist jerk, who punishes him for something he didn't do. After a foreman catches Shields’s son reading, they whip the boy, which leads Shields to murder Stevens’s henchmen. Sadly, Shields’s wife dies during the chaos. With no other choice, Shields leaves his son behind and goes on the run with a bounty hunter (played by Ben Robson) in hot pursuit. 

Eventually, Shields crosses with paths with abolitionist John Brown (played by James Cromwell) and joins his rebellion to take Harpers Ferry.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been a Civil War buff since I was a little bitty kid, and I know about the real Shields “Emperor” Green. Director Mark Amin fictionalizes Shields into an action hero, which is one of several issues I have with the movie. In reality, the raid on Harpers Ferry was a failure, resulting in Shields being convicted of treason and later executed, which doesn't occur in the film.

The directing and writing is a mixed bag. It seems Mark Amin couldn’t decide on what kind of movie he wanted to make - a historical-drama or an action-thriller. The final result throws the pacing off, making the film feel disjointed. Most of the cast give outstanding performances, and they try to do their best with the wooden dialogue.

The picture and sound qualities are decent for a DVD release. There are no special features or bonus features.

Overall, Emperor is a misguided film that you’ll forget as soon as the credits roll. As an action-western, it can entertain, but if you have known anything about history, you’ll be disappointed.

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