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Always Outnumbered

Reviewed By Ophelia13
Posted 03/17/00 00:25:22

"Charming...in a not so good way."
3 stars (Just Average)

For a two hour movie, ‘Always Outnumbered’ seems to succeed beautifully in putting it’s audience to sleep. It revels in slow dialogue and corny platitudes such as “Out here, you don’t need to join the Army to be in a war.” For all that, though, I still found myself watching near the end.

In what I saw of ‘Always Outnumbered’ and all it tried to be, I couldn’t help but think that maybe it was trying too hard. It wanted to be a riveting drama, captivating it’s audiences
with clever dialogue, but instead it comes out long winded and out of breath with the effort. It wants to be tough and kind at the same time, yet all we find ourselves in the midst of is some rather confusing events. Most of all, it wants to touch you. It’s not a vile touch, to be sure, but it’s still one that makes you contemplate washing your hands.

As for a plot, I found very little. The movie is about something, but there aren’t enough plot threads to hold what it is about together. We start out listening to a voice-over describing a man named Socrates (Larry Fishburne). The detached voice we are listening to belongs to an old man (played by Bill Cobbs), and continues throughout. My biggest complaint with this is that the narration is not consistent, popping up at random moments to tell us what Socrates must be thinking. Perhaps I have this wrong, but I always thought that the actor behind the character should be able to do this without saying anything- and maybe he can, but the voice just won’t let him.
Socrates is an ex-con, reformed (or something) and now a part of society. He collects cans on the street to make a living, and applies at local grocery stores for a needed boost in his income. One such store, run by Halley Grimes (Laurie Metcalf) is far from his home, in a predominantly white neighborhood. He demands an application, only to be told that he cannot work there for any number of reasons. They proceed to inform him of
all of them.
Socrates is also an all around good guy, befriending young boys who kill chickens and witness murders, eating at the local diner, helping out his buddy’s wife in finding her husband after he has run off, assisting the old narrator through his twilight years, and kicking some serious ass, all in the name of his morals and the strong sense of love which he acquired in prison. He often finds himself put back in the position which deposited him in jail usually walking away because he believes that it is not worth burdoning his mind.

The performances here leave much to be desired, although I do believe that might not be entirely the actors’ faults. Larry Fishburne does what he can with the script, but he doesn’t quite show the range of emotion that was originally intended. Bill Cobbs as the old man is fitting, but only because of the similarities in age. His character is seen little, and heard too much. Natalie Cole, behind the counter of Socrates’ favorite diner seems out of place as well, but that may be due to her character not really having a deserved spot in the movie. She spends most of her screen time with close ups on her face, and that did nothing to increase her relevance.

All in all though, I think that what makes “Always Outnumbered” viewable is it’s charm. It tries, and you want it to succeed, even though there are few instances where it does.

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