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While packing up my apartment to move, Redemption just happened to come
on the TV. I had heard about the controversy surrounding the movie, how
it was supposed to "glamorize" gang behavior and justify it. Needless
to say (or else I wouldn't be writing this), I got hooked on the film,
and didn't get much packing done.
Tookie Williams co-founded the Crips in LA, but after his arrest and death sentence for the murders of several people, Williams embarked on a different path. While on death row, he has written a children's series of books aimed at preventing gang violence. For his efforts, he has been nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is credited with a truce between the Crips and the Bloods in Newark, NJ.
The film, which chronicles Williams' life, shows how he grew up and got involved with gangs. However, the main thrust of the film is clearly that violence is not right, and that Williams, knowing what he knows now, is seeking to undo as much of his own actions as he can.
Williams does not discount the glamorous lifestyle that gangs allowed him, but recognizes now the pain and destruction that they cause. Williams himself understands the seductive nature of the gang, and is striving to help young people understand the consequences of their actions, before they do them.
Jamie Foxx, up to this point an underrated actor, displays amazing range in his portrayal of Williams. We are meant to see Williams, not as a great man, but rather as a flawed human being, one who has made mistakes and now is fighting to atone for them. If we cannot learn from our mistakes, we are no better than those we criticize. Foxx's performance, for which he has received many accolades, is incredible to watch.
If you are still reading this, you have enough of an open mind to appreciate this film. Please don't let the negative criticism dissuade you from watching this film. The film does not shirk from attempting to show the seductive side of gangs, but it also leaves no question about which side Williams is on. Williams' cause to eliminate gang warfare is a righteous one, and if he succeeds, we all win.
STAR RATING: ***** The Works **** Just Misses the Mark *** That Little
Bit In Between ** Lagging Behind * The Pits
A true story depicting the story of Crips founder Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, played by Jamie Foxx. Imprisoned on multiple counts of murder in the early 80s, the film takes off on the verge of Tookie's execution date, when he is visited by a journalist (Lynn Whitfield) eager to learn about the gang culture. Impressed by the intelligent and seemingly remorseful man she now sees in front of her, she is astonished when he asks for her help-in writing children's books warning of the dangers of gang life! This is the beginning of his path to true redemption and his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I got a little caught up last year in the big Tookie debate as the day of his execution dawned (or maybe just a little after it.) Ancient history now, but I thought it would still be interesting to check this film out and learn a little bit more about the story behind Tookie.
As the actor playing him, Foxx was one of the celebrity vocal exponents for granting clemency to Tookie in the closing days before his execution. I'm willing to bet he met the man and spoke with him to research his part a bit, and that his portrayal of the imprisoned man is fairly accurate. Tookie's crimes sound truly despicable and in the eyes of many his death by lethal injection may even have sounded too merciful, but I think what the film is trying to portray is an example of how the American prison system has worked in it's ability to 'rehabilitate' a criminal and make him into a more intelligent, if not entirely decent, human being. With Foxx in the lead role, I can't help but feel his personal politics on the matter may have had some say in how the script panned out, and at times it does feel a little one-sided, going to great lengths to show the new improved Tookie without going into too much detail of the atrocious crimes he committed, but then a few other films could be accused of that recently.
Quality wise, the film suffers from a bit of a disjointed opening, with too much use of flashy camera effects. Early on, this actually put me in such low expectations for the rest of the film that I actually found myself nodding off for a bit. But Foxx does deliver a compelling performance in the lead role and things do get more interesting as the film goes on. Plus it should be commended for wrapping the very heavy subject matter it's depicting up in just under an hour and a half. ***
This movie was brilliantly directed and very moving. Before watching this movie, I never knew the true story behind the creation of the gangs in California. My outlook on gangs was vague but very harsh. This film opened me up to a whole new world of insight on gangs and the man himself Stan "Tookie" Williams. This film showed me that with a positive influence anything is possible. This film should be watched by not only want to be gang members but children of all creeds and nationality. My kids watched this movie and were very moved by what they saw also. This movie gets two thumbs up for a well directed, well acted, well portrayed story of Mr. Williams. If i were offered the opportunity to meet him it would be an honor for not only myself, but my kids as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Lynn Whitfield, CCH Pounder, Brenden Richard Jefferson
TV movie: FX
The year was 1971. It was the year that 17-year-old Stanly "Tookie" Williams started the Crips street gang in South Central Los Angeles. His intent was not to have a violent gang, but to have a gang for which him and his friends could stand up for themselves and their community in a non-violent way.
The gang turns violent after more gangs are created and they can't bond together and unite as a whole. Thousands of lives are lost and thousands of lives are put into rival gangs.
Tookie is convicted of several murders as a young man and is sentenced to death. Barbara Becnel is a journalist with a son in college who she is worried about turning into a gangsta. She becomes one of Tookie's best friends while he's on Death Row and helps him get a book deal for children's books.
Tookie has been nominated for 3 Nobel Peace prizes and continues to tell children to stay out of gangs and not to follow his route through his writing. He is still on Death Row at San Quentin to this date.
This is not the average gangsta movie. It was made for TV and doesn't have the usual amount of swearing and violence as you may see in other movies of its' type. There's lots of dialogue and reminiscing, so it's important that the viewer watches at all times. It would probably pass as PG-13 if it were released into theatres. -Pat
I think this movie is excellently done. It tells Williams' story in vivid detail and lets you know a lot about him. Anyone who is in either the Bloods or the Crips needs to see this movie, as well as people who aren't in gangs, but want to know more about them. We watched this movie in my Health class last year and I became fascinated with Williams and how he tried to escape the violent life he'd led by doing good for others. This has changed the way I look at gangs and I really think people need to see this movie for their opinions to change as well. Tookie Williams admits that he regretted the things he did and for that, he deserves to be granted clemency...although that will never happen now. I feel sorry that such a good influence has to be destroyed. He didn't start out well but he more than made up for it. I suppose the ones too shallow to see that are the ones calling for his death, and truly I pity them. If they look upon his works and call them insignificant because they were written by a gang member then they are crazy and need to be shown what change is.
The topic of Stan Williams often incites heated and emotional debate. A movie about his life was therefore a perfect opportunity to inform both sides of the armchair debaters, showing why Tookie was put in prison and sketching the events leading to his self-claimed redemption. Tookie was a wretched man - he said so himself. The movie should have shown how wretched he was. It should have shown the violence he was exposed to when he was young, the murders he was convicted for, his violent behaviour in prison for many years before he had a change of heart. He also always claimed he was innocent of the crimes he was sentenced for, so there was an opportunity to film the murders with some doubt as to the perpetrator. It could really have built around the doubt, and played on the emotional conflict of carrying out the sentence or having mercy on a changed man. But the movie doesn't focus on the character change of Tookie. It never focuses on his violent nature, and the viewer is not taken on the journey of the evolving character. Instead, the film starts off with the nice Tookie Williams who has kind eyes and a nature that evokes sympathy. His former crimes are only eluded to, and he is depicted as an honest man seeking release from prison as a place he can't get used to and just doesn't belong. Jamie Foxx is a brilliant actor, but unfortunately does not portray the latent demon that was Tookie. Jamie is too nice-looking, and not nearly huge enough. If you are not familiar with the Tookie Williams story, this movie will seem to jump around a lot and will not make as much sense as it is supposed to. Those unfamiliar with the story will side immediately with Tookie and want him to be released from prison. As such, it is not an accurate portrayal, and it is not clear what the film was trying to create. The movie never really finds its rhythm and it is an unfortunate lost opportunity. The viewer should have a good idea of how bad Tookie was, and then be able to judge for himself the genuineness of the change, and only then start to question what Tookie's fate should have been. These questions did not need to be answered in the movie, but they should at least have been posed. Instead, the end result is a random and inelegant sympathetic sketch of Tookie's last days that ends on an imperfect cadence.
The Beginning In the spring of 1971, when Tookie was 17, he was in a
very different situation. He was a high school student from South
Central Los Angeles. He had a fearsome reputation as a fighter and as a
"general" of South Central's west side. And, around that time, Tookie,
along with Raymond Lee Washington, created what would one day be a
super-gang, the Crips. Back in the day when Tookie and Raymond founded
the Crips, many of the young people of South Central Los Angeles were
involved with small gangs. Those gang members roamed South Central
taking property from anyone who feared them, including women and
children. To protect the community, Tookie and Raymond organized the
Growth By 1979, the Crips had grown from a small Los Angeles gang to an organization with membership spread across the State of California. By this time, Crips had also become just like the gang members they had once sought to protect themselves from -- Crips had become gangbangers who terrorized their own neighborhoods.
Soon the Crips lost both their leaders: in 1979, Raymond was murdered by a rival gang member, and, that same year, Tookie was arrested. He was charged with murdering four people. In 1981, Tookie was convicted of those crimes and placed on death row.
Life in Prison In 1987, Tookie began what became a 6 1/2-year stay in solitary confinement. After two years there, Tookie began to look at himself. He focused on the choices he had made in his life and then committed himself to make a drastic change. The long, difficult process he undertook to rebuild his character put him in touch with his true spirit, his own humanity. Only then could Tookie finally begin to care about the many children, mothers, fathers and other family members of this country hurt by the Crips legacy and by its explosive growth. The gang is now in 42 states and on at least one other continent: South Africa. Youngsters in Soweto and other South African cities have formed the Crips copycat gangs
Tookie Today Tookie greatly regrets the violent history of the Crips -- particularly how so many young black men have hurt each other -- and he wants to do what he can to stop it. The Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence book series for elementary-school-age children is the first fruit of his longing to prevent young people of every color from becoming gangbangers, from ending up in prison, crippled by bullets, or killed.
Tookie is determined to make amends for having been a co-founder of the Crips. He intends to try in every way he can to guide those youngsters who have imitated him away from the road that led him to death row where he faces State execution. "Don't join a gang," he tells children in his books, writing from his San Quentin cell. "You won't find what you're looking for. All you will find is trouble, pain and sadness. I know. I did."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although we can't be sure how much of the persona is real, Jamie Fox
beautifully portrays Tookie Williams in this well-made film. Likewise,
Lynn Whitfield plays the endearing journalist Barbara Becnel, who asks
Tookie to provide information for her upcoming book on gang history.
The roles, in the end, reverse, when Becnel realizes Tookie needs her
help in delivering his message.
The flaw in the movie, as in so many that portray addicts, is the failure to link convoluted thinking and misbehaviors to alcohol and other drug addiction. Tookie explains he helped start the Crips to "protect the neighborhood." Responding to Becnel's comment that it was a criminal enterprise from the start, Tookie replies that the cops weren't protecting anyone. "Either I was going to be a victim or a victimizer." However, he failed to note that he'd been doing drugs since at least age 13, when he sniffed glue, and didn't co-found the Crips until he was 18. And like most other hard-drug addicts, he was probably an early-stage alcoholic from the start.
When Becnel asks, "How can you possibly justify shooting a man who looks just like you?" Williams responded, "At the core is an embedded sense of self-hate you start to believe those stereotypes depicting that the majority of blacks are buffoons or functioning illiterates, promiscuous, violent, welfare recipients and criminals You lash out at those individuals that fit those stereotypes trying to obliterate those negative images." However, Tookie neglected to mention the alcohol and other drugs consumed in addictive quantities by most of those having such belief systems, including him in his prior life. Such drugs cause distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals, of which he is one. Nor did the movie forge the link between his sobriety and change of heart, which is crucial to understanding the man.
He was too out-of-control for his mother, who took him to his fatherwhom he had never metand who promptly abandoned him. While now eloquent and likable, he didn't remark on when he first used drugswhich may have been a period leading to his out-of-control behaviors.
Becnel put her history aside when Tookie told her, "I don't want to leave my legacy here as simply being the co-founder of the Crips, if I can keep a kid from coming to this place " He tells her he wants to right his wrongs by writing children's books and shooting not people, but videos, in which he would apologize for his part in creating the Crips. "I deeply regret the legacy that it left because it left a legacy of genocide: black on black genocide." While making it clear that the course of violence must be reversed, he again ignores the role of alcoholism and other-drug addiction in creating the mindset that leads to the lion's share of abuse, including the ultimate crimes.
At one point, the film points out he stopped using when he decided to seek redemption. The link is blurred, but at least it's there. He stopped using, which allowed him to seek redemption; redemption is impossible while still using, because the active addict thinks he's God.
What the movie lacks in forging the link between addiction and misbehaviors, it makes up for in good acting and speeches of atonement. "We do good because it makes us feel alive. The first half of my life I was dead but now the second half I get a chance to live and do something about it. And if I have to die in order to show the meaningthe true meaning of itthen so let it be." And, he points out the importance of self-responsibility in speeches to children: "This place (prison) does not make you a man. The moment you begin to make excuses for yourselves, that's the moment you get on to a pathway leading straight to here." And, "My violent gang past is unworthy of imitation or praise." He admits his greatest mistake ever was to co-found the Crips, while explaining that life is all about choices and that to assume there wasn't a choice is "just an excuse." However, he fails to point out that he never would have engaged in repetitive and horrific criminal behaviors if he hadn't inherited addiction, a common failure among addicts who all-too-often don't understand their own disease.
Nonetheless, it's a good movie about redemption. My understanding of alcoholism--on which I write extensively--has turned me into a strong believer in the idea of allowing addicts to do what they can to right their sometimes heinous wrongs, if they are willing. The movie portrays him as having made a very decent attempt, even if the wrong can never be fully righted.
On December 13th, 2005, I read on the Brazilian newspapers that Stanley
Tookie Williams III was executed by lethal injection after the denial
of clemency from the Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Tookie was the founder of a Los Angeles gang called Crips, and
condemned for the murder of four persons. After almost seven years in
the death row at San Quentin, he decided, with the support of a
journalist, to write instructive books for children, being nominated
for the Nobel Peace Prize and to the Nobel Prize for Literature on the
This touching story is very well directed and has another awesome performance of Jammie Fox, probably one of the best American actors in this moment. However, it is very difficult to give an opinion about the polemic and controversial situation of Stanley Williams only based on this movie and a few recent readings. First, I do not know how manipulative this film might be, since it shows only a regenerated and regretted man trying to help children to not follow his path, but never his crimes or how cruel he was while living outside jail. But anyway it is an excellent movie to make the viewer think about some issues. Lets admit that Stan Williams had really regenerated, therefore, accomplishing with the major objective of the penal system. In this situation, his death proves the complete failure of this system, destroying a well-succeeded case of human recovery of a criminal and giving the worst example to the other prisoners. In the other side, there are the relatives and friends of his victims: all of this situation, giving the chance of a murderer writing books for children, would be very offensive for them. I really liked this very awarded and nominated movie. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Redenção" ("Redemption")
I saw this movie after seeing Jamie perform in Colatteral and RAY.
I didn't think much of his performance in Colatteral maybe because the script that he was working with didn't give him much to work with.
But after seeing Ray and then this movie I would have to say that Jamie is the best actor in Hollywood at portraying real life characters.
This movie is educational without being preachy which is difficult considering the subject matter and is a testament to the skill of the lead actors, Jamie Foxx and Lynn Whitfield.
This is a movie you must see.
I gave this movie a 10 out of 10 rating
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