Tribeca Film Festival '15: "Cronies" Review

If “Friday” met “Baby Boy” on a blind date to see “Boyz In the Hood”, the resulting love child would be “Cronies”. As complicated as that equation is, it perfectly sums up the influences and themes the film explores like friendship, loyalty, personal evolution, not letting the past define you, and masculinity. Executive produced by Spike Lee, “Cronies” is the second feature length film from Michael Larnell and likely won’t be the last. 

The low budget film is shot in black and white, and uses color to highlight major events much like “She’s Gotta Have It”. Covering the course of a day in St. Louis, the film starts  at the home of Louis (George Sample III). Louis is trying to get on the good foot after making a promise to his girlfriend. They are raising a daughter together, and plan to celebrate her birthday the next day. Jack (Zurich Buckner) is Louis’s uncouth, hot headed, live-wire friend. It’s obvious that they were probably best friends at a point, but it’s not quite clear what is dividing their relationship in the beginning of the film.

Andrew (Brian Kowalski) is Louis’s stiff, white co-worker from the local car dealership. When Andrew stops by to hang out with Louis, Jack takes it upon himself to inquire as to why. From there, Jack becomes the third wheel as he pushes his way into Louis and Andrew’s activities for the day. It’s an uncomfortable ride as Jack grills Andrew with questions like a jealous ex-girlfriend. Perhaps Jack feels that Louis is moving on in their friendship, and he doesn’t want to be left behind. Regardless, Andrew keeps his cool and stays on Jack’s good side, while Louis barely talks at all.

As the day goes on, Andrew slowly wins favor and a mutual tolerance with Jack. It could be the half naked girl, high on ecstasy, who swims in the pool at Andrew’s friend’s house. It could be because Andrew isn’t afraid to “holla” at random chicks Jack points out. It could be because “Andy” (as Jack calls him) keeps giving him squares (cigarettes) and let’s him smoke his weed when he asks. In all these instances Jack asserts his masculinity for the world to see. It’s in these moments that Larnell examines the perception of masculinity. Whether and how you rise to the occasion seems to define the trios level of manhood and perhaps establish the alpha in the group.

Each character hides behind a costume. Whether it’s Louis’s glasses, Jack’s shades and hat, or Andrew’s clean cut look, everyone uses their exterior wardrobe to shield themselves. It’s something we all do. It’s in Larnell’s one on one, man on the street interviews that their shields are set aside and their true identity is pierced by Larnell’s searing questions. In one scene, Larnell asks Louis if he’s in love with his girlfriend. It takes him a while to admit it and he finally concedes but not without a coinciding statement that asserts he’s not soft. Jack actually takes has his sunglasses off while answering a question. The man on the street interviews serve as story building emotional beats that work.

By the next day, the trio has been through enough to continue their friendship, proving that experiences build relationships. Louis and Jack have squashed their beef, and Andrew is a part of the family. The guys have matured just a little bit and regardless of if they continue to evolve as men, for the moment, they have. 

Rating: B-

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.