The Black Mamba (2011) Poster

(I) (2011)

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An advert perhaps but one done with style, comedy and a large budget
bob the moo21 February 2011
LA Lakers star player Kobe Bryant has been nicknamed "The Black Mamba" as, when he plays he strikes fast and is deadly. Looking to expand on the branding, Bryant takes a meeting with director Robert Rodriguez to discuss a project he proposes to do just that – an action movie with Bryant in the lead role, wherein various villains are after The Black Mamba to take away his shoes.

It is hard not to watch this "film" as an advert since it is essentially a Nike commercial with their current star endorser being shown off wearing their trainers and a shed-load of money being spent doing it. That said, despite using the shoes as a plot device (and making sure they are regularly in shot) the short film is actually a pretty fun little Robert Rodriguez piece, as it is in his style with all the faces that you would expect to turn up in one of his films. So what we get is a very stylised action movie with lots of Sin City style darkness and design in it but also an awareness that it is perhaps overblown and daft. So, in essence the film gets to have its cake (gently mocking the style) and eat it (embracing the very thing it is slightly mocking). It is a good approach because it produces some good gags (particularly relating to casting and who Rodriguez would get in reality) but also allows the money to be up there on screen in regards the look, the feel and the special effects.

The film within a film is very Rodriguez – stylish, contains the cast he would have and has overblown basketball action – it works well for what it is but it is greatly helped by the contrast with the "real" scenes of the pitch meeting between Bryant and Rodriguez. These are where a lot of the jokes are set up and the two men are good with one another. Bryant surprised me in these bits; I already knew he can do the posturing and the dramatic poses that the action stuff required but he made the "real" parts work thanks to how natural and charismatic he came off doing those. Likewise Rodriguez's passionate pitch gave the film energy. Credit to Willis and West for their parts, while Trejo (although not given the best character) is a good sport in acknowledging that he is a frequent bit player in such films.

Ultimately this is a commercial venture designed to sell Kobe and, more specifically, sell Kobe wearing Nike trainers, but this is not to say that this is all it does – I mean, it is certainly not an advert in the 30 second "hi, my name's Kobe Bryant, you may recognise me from etc etc" variety. Put together with style and budget, the short is run through with a sense of fun that allows the viewer to laugh at what they are seeing while also enjoy it for the same qualities. Not quite as funny nor as clever as I would have liked though and it is hard to shake the feeling of a star-driven sales pitch rather than enjoy it as a short film in its own right, but it is still good enough to check out and at least it deserves credit for being an advert I enjoyed watching.
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Does it take itself seriously?
filmreviews@web.de3 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is probably the core question in evaluating this 6-minute short film written by, directed by and starring Quentin Tarantino's longtime collaborator Robert Rodriguez 4 years ago. The title character is played by Kobe Bryant and also in the cast are Kanye West Bruce Willis, Danny Trejo and a couple lesser known actors. It's basically a dialog between Rodriguez and Bryant who plan on making a film together playing themselves here. And apart from that, there is also some basketball action of course. Bryant plays solo against a gang of 5 evil players dent by the criminal mastermind Kanye West. Of course Bryant beats them all and the last one is so lost that he decides to jump off the cliff himself. The cliff is a basketball court floating in the air here. Bryant also falls down from it int the abyss, but like a miracle he somehow hangs on to the rim in the next scene. Doesn't make sense really. Then again, this is obviously a fantasy / science fiction film. Not a good one though. Thumbs down.
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