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Day Shall Come, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Don't feel bad about laughing at horrible Feds."
3 stars

"The Day Shall Come" seems like it would be a lot more fun in a packed house of folks who are into it, but where are you going to scare up that sort of crowd for a dark comedy about the FBI trying to bust a mentally ill man for terrorism? It's not quite weird or star-powered enough for the sort of buzz that "Sorry to Bother You" could get, for instance, even if it is thinking along the same lines. So it screens for three of us, and we laugh, but without the reinforcement that would have the laughter filling the room.

It opens with Moses al-Shabbaz (Marchánt Davis) and a couple other members of his small congregation trying to get some small-timers to stop working the street and work on his community farm, which is well-behind on its rent. He talks about someday striking a blow against the "gentrificators" and the white people who have been keeping them down, but he's both practical enough to know that he needs a much larger movement and schizophrenic enough to believe God spoke to him through a duck and that he'll be able to topple the cranes with the power of his mind. Meanwhile, the Miami office of the FBI is busily entrapping confused Middle-Eastern.people, and while the local chief (Denis O'Hare) tells Special Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) that in the current environment, brown perps play better than black, Moses is a guy that they've been keeping an eye on, and the next one they decide to focus on.

The film is stacked from top to bottom with people trying to do the right thing via fraud, from Moses to every level of law enforcement, with the obvious added wrinkle that Moses doesn't always know what's real and what is not. It's a mess piled three or four levels deep and most everybody involved is so invested in their delusions from the start that it never occurs to them to examine their amorality, with brief moments of lucidity unable to slow what's steaming ahead out of control. If co-writer/director Christopher Morris's previous film Four Lions played on how most would-be terrorists aren't very bright to try to allay the racist fears of the 2000s while also hinting that the promised infamy could make jihad more attractive, The Day Shall Come gets its fuel from an equally stupid professionalism and efficiency, with law enforcement so certain of there being monsters around every corner and driven by an almost corporate need to show results.

I laughed, though, sometimes at the twisted path everyone eventually found themselves taking but more often at every odd thing the characters said or did without feeling the need to justify it. The film has a downright screwy ensemble, with the FBI side featuring especially good patter between Denis O'Hare's settled-in senior agent, Michael Braun as a prosecutor who is all political savvy, Adam David Thompson and Anna Kendrick as bickering partners, and some downright mercenary informants. The other end is just as well-stocked, with Malcolm M. Mays as a man of few words who would like to skip to the part where they overthrow the oppressors and Andrei McPherson as the still-idealistic new recruit who is starting to realize that Moses isn't all there. It's Marchánt Davis who is rightly at the center of most of the great scenes, though, walking the very thin wire where Moses is simultaneously the person with the clearest vision and the most moral clarity and also completely delusional. Davis will strut through a scene in absurd costumes, rattle off seemingly insane prophecy and ritual words, seeming to play the fool, but always have a sweetness and nobility underneath that makes him both likable and potentially tragic as Moses tries to keep the good thing he's building going despite both the world and his own brain working against it.

They're all fine screwball characters, but there are times when I wished there was a little more screwines. When the movie is firing, one joke leads to another without any sort of pause, eliciting little snorts at their harsh but fair commentary and pairing of different oddball personalities. Things get a little tricky at the end, as the story starts to make a jump or two that don't play as quite so horrifyingly natural as what happened before, especially when they seem to make a bit about people not being what they seem rather than law-enforcement priorities being out of whack. It also feels like they had a hard time figuring a way out that didn't involve someone being sensible, which seems like a bit of a cheat after all the insanity. It's inevitable but a bit of a bummer that it winds up being Kendra, since Anna Kendrick can do weird as well as anybody and she's a bit wasted when playing straight man to the rest of the film's group of amoral oddballs.

Even with those shortcomings, "The Day Shall Come" is smart and funny more often than not, and I laughed throughout. Maybe a more packed house (or the less social confines of my living room) would have made it easier to laugh out loud when it's at its best and keep that going during its occasional lulls.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32998&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/01/19 23:59:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

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