Review of "Rebel" on BET From The TV MegaSite
 

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Rebel and Malik 

Review of "Rebel" 4/9/17 by Norm DePlume
Airs Tuesdays, 10/9c on BET

 

Rebel was a cop.  On the east side of Oakland.  Back in the U.S.A.  Back in the bad old days.

Younger readers will no doubt miss this nod to “The Night Chicago Died,” a number one smash single for a pop group called Paper Lace back in 1974.  Likewise, younger viewers of “Rebel,” BET’s new detective drama, will almost certainly fail to recognize the homage paid, intentionally or not, to the great Pam Grier, heroine of such 1970s classics as “Sheba, Baby” and “Foxy Brown,” and also, to quote a long-forgotten Hollywood publicist, the “baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town.” 

Can you dig it?  In principle, sure, why not?  Nothing wrong with a strong woman of color taking it to The Man in the early years of the 21st Century.  Hell, if anything, The Man has grown even more powerful over the past four decades, and civilian-police relationships are, to say the least, no less complicated in 2017 than they were during the Nixon years.  Foxy Brown meets Black Lives Matter is a premise that is ripe with all sorts of subversive possibilities, and no white villain from the Blaxploitation era quite measures up to the mottled, jowly, big-haired bully who promises to make America great again by vacating most of the victories of the Obama era.  If there were ever a moment for an African American superwoman who kicks ass and takes names, this would be it.

And, indeed, Rebel (played intensely by Danielle Moné Truitt), the superwoman in question, is baaad.  Unfortunately, the opening episode of “Rebel,” the series in question, is bad as well.  Our superhero can seemingly do it all—beat some sense into white collar thugs, face down the nastiest dudes in the hood, and save a blonde heiress from impending doom.  What she cannot do, however, is punch and kick her way through a clunky script, a series of cartoonish contrivances, and enough thick-necked racial symbolism to embarrass even a college humanities professor.

The first episode pivots around the moment when Police Detective Rebel and her white male partner (and occasional lover, Mac, played by Brandon Quinn) receive a call about a black man with a gun.  The man turns out to be Rebel’s kid brother, Malik (Mikelen Walker) an aspiring musician with too much of a taste for the street.  Rebel convinces her sibling to drop the weapon, and all seems well until we notice that the partner has slipped into some sort of trance that white cops evidently enter when they encounter a threatening black male.  Oblivious to the de-escalation of the crisis, he fires a shot in the kid’s direction and Rebel responds by shooting her part-time paramour in the shin.  About that moment, the cavalry arrives in the form of a half dozen or so squad cars carrying a cadre of Oakland’s finest, who know nothing of the situation except that there’s an officer down.  Despite Rebel’s anguished pleas, the fuzz unload their weapons into her brother’s body, his slow motion demise demanding that we regard this event, as Rebel does, as a racially-motivated execution.

Thereafter, the PD divides along racial lines, and a couple of decidedly unwoke honkies from Internal Affairs pepper Rebel with questions that make it clear that all they care about is her wounded white partner.  (They casually refer to her brother as MAHL-ik, and she caustically responds, “Mah-LEEK.”)  The partner’s cop brother gets into a brief fight with the black precinct commander.  The partner himself rushes off to a nearby police bar to drink his way to the realization that his actions have resulted in the death of a young man he knew to be good at heart (and perhaps also a more painful understanding that his periodic ration of brown sugar is about to dry up). 

John Singleton directs this initial episode, which perhaps helps to explain the clumsiness of the acting and pacing.  (Singleton, however, did not write the by-the-numbers script, which ranges from hackneyed to overwrought to awkward: Malik, for example, refers to Rebel as “sis” several times in the early scenes, as if more subtle words could not be found to reveal their relationship.)  Singleton’s signature achievement remains “Boyz n the Hood,” his rookie effort, and a movie whose heavy-handedness was rescued by superior acting performances (although veterans Giancarlo Esposito and Mykelti Williamson do raise the quality of the show in their scenes).  Absent such transcendent talent as Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, Singleton seems to trip over his own sense of righteousness and a persistent belief that nothing in the emotional life of his characters should be left to the imagination.

The first episode continues for quite some time after its climactic moment, and by the time we’re done, Rebel is off the force and foreign terrorists somehow find their way into the story’s narrative.  Perhaps future episodes, with less time to fill, will not be as ponderous as the pilot.  Perhaps Rebel’s removal from the PD will reduce the show’s preachiness.  Perhaps “Rebel” will find its legs as a 70s style superbad romp with a modern backdrop.  But first, future directors will need to find a way to replace politics with action.  They’ll also need better scripts.  We’ve come a long way since 1974, and contemporary TV viewers simply demand more substance than this thin drama provides.

MORE INFORMATION:

BET TO PREMIERE NEW ORIGINAL SCRIPTED DRAMA, ‘REBEL,’ FROM JOHN SINGLETON ON MARCH 28TH AT 10PM ET/PT

03/21/17

Touching on Sensitive Issues Regarding the Community’s Relationship with Police, REBEL Features an

All-Star Cast Including, Giancarlo Esposito, Mykelti Williamson, Cliff “Method Man” Smith and

Danielle Moné Truitt

#RebelOnBET

New York – March 21, 2017 – BET’s new scripted drama, REBEL, takes on the unique and complicated relationship the Black community faces with police officers. Directed by John Singleton, the series follows Rebel (Danielle Moné Truitt), a police officer who leaves the force after being under an intense Internal Affairs/criminal investigation for shooting her partner in the hopes of stopping him from gunning down her little brother. Continuing to fight crime as a P.I., Rebel struggles with her brother’s murder while defending herself from the dirty cops who are out for revenge. REBEL premieres on BET, March 28th at 10:00PM ET/PT.

Featuring an all-star cast, including Giancarlo Esposito (Lieutenant Charles Gold, Rebel’s friend and mentor), Mykelti Williamson (Rene Knight, Rebel’s father), CliffMethod Man” Smith (TJ, Rebel’s ex-husband), LaTanya Richardson (Detective Traylynn Jones, Mack’s New Partner), Brandon Quinn (Mack, Rebel’s Former Partner), the series examines the conflicted relationship officers of color have with their jobs at a time when police forces are rife with brutality and misconduct. REBEL is a hard-hitting, gritty, complicated and morally ambiguous drama series, featuring many issues ripped from the headlines.

REBEL is produced by MarVista Entertainment for BET and Executive Produced and Directed by John Singleton. Dallas Jackson and Randy Huggins are also Executive Producers. Music for the pilot was composed by Jill Scott.

ABOUT BET NETWORKS

BET Networks, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIA.B sted NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), is the nation's leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel reaches more than 90 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions: BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; CENTRIC, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American Woman; BET Music Networks - BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.

ABOUT MARVISTA ENTERTAINMENT

Founded in 2003, Los Angeles-based MarVista Entertainment is a leading independent entertainment studio that produces, acquires and distributes premium film and television content worldwide. With a library showcasing nearly 2,500 hours of content, and with approximately 40 new movies per year added to the company’s distribution pipeline, MarVista has become one of the largest suppliers of movies to the worldwide marketplace. MarVista has an expansive distribution footprint spanning more than 125 global territories, and has grown to become a pre-eminent supplier of programming to major cable networks in the U.S., including Disney Channel/Disney XD, Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, NBC Universal, Nickelodeon and MTV Networks, as well as key international broadcasters, cable networks and digital platforms.


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