Movie Review: Coffee & Kareem

Coffee & Kareem is about James Coffee, a Detroit police officer who is dating Vanessa, the mother of a young son named Kareem. The pair get into trouble as Kareem goes to hire a gangster to have Coffee beaten senseless. Kareem witnesses the murder of a dirty cop and has to learn to rely on Coffee to get him through this situation safely. The film stars Ed Helms, Terrence Little Gardenhigh, Taraji P. Henson, Betty Gilpin, RonReaco Lee, Andrew Bachelor, William "Big Sleeps" Stewart, and David Alan Grier. It is directed by Michael Dowse and is written by Shane Mack. The film is exclusively streaming to Netflix subscribers.


I really don't like watching kids excessively swearing. It's one of the reasons I couldn't fully invest in Good Boys. There's something in my brain that's so uncomfortable with the idea that a writer wrote these things knowing the child wouldn't fully understand everything they were saying. I get that kids can really talk like this and it has a reality to it, it just takes me out of it knowing that that kid may have been very confused at the language, the jokes, misogyny, and homophobia of it all.


Other than that, the movie's a decent comedy. Several funny scenes between Gardenhigh and Helms. I even like that an initial big reveal I guessed at and was right about in the beginning, wasn't the only surprise. Shane Mack's script is excellent at taking expectations and flipping them.


There's also a really great dynamic in the trio of RonReaco Lee, Andrew Bachelor and William "Big Sleeps" Stewart. Their scenes were some of my favorites including their discussion at the front door of the house they're about to break into and the scene that follows. I love when a trio has the chemistry to make silly and weird work. Though, there is a different scene that nearly redeemed the whole movie for me.


Coffee and Kareem have been having this ongoing discussion about how to sound tough and intimidating to catch people off their guard. Kareem suggests Coffee has to be really "gay" about it, spouting the foulest threats of sodomy and sexual assault to everyone they meet. Yet, Coffee still doesn't get it. In fact he takes it too far in the other direction after they kidnap Orlando to get some answers. Coffee describes how he's going to take Orlando out for a nice dinner, that he'll meet everyone of Orlando's sexual needs and, completing his angered lovely sentiments by telling Orlando that after 8 months of dating he'd ask him to marry him. It's a great and an interesting answer to the homophobia of all the previous intimidation scenes.


Yet, while there are scenes that had me in stitches like the two above and the great roundabout sequence that lasts the perfect length, most of the rest of the movie left me scratching my head. I couldn't get a concrete reason for any motivations for the dirty cops. Yeah, there's money, but it just felt really thin, especially as Betty Gilpin's Detective Watts is incredibly unhinged. She's in a whole different movie. She was not my favorite kind of unhinged, just an overactive unhinged that completely took me out of several scenes. There was also a lot of weird strong violence. I get gun play, but an exploding body, someone being shot over a dozen times, those go from humorous fake deaths to shocking very quickly.


Even though it's a smaller part, Taraji P. Henson really steals the show for me. She's incredible as the take no prisoners mom of Kareem. She has this great scene where she beats the snot out of the two gangsters who come to kill her. It's ridiculous and funny and so badass. I love when she gets to cut loose in a comedy. She's a great switch hitter from drama to comedy and she pulls both off with such ease.


Coffee & Kareem is just under an hour and a half, so you're not losing a lot of time if you choose to put it on. As I wrote it's a decent comedy and if you can get through the kind of ho hum parts throughout, there's some gold in there. I'd be very interested to see what Shane Mack writes next as it is a solid script with some good flips of expectations.

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