The Inspection Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Elegance Bratton
Stars: Jeremy Pope, Bokeem Woodbine, Raul Castillo, Gabrielle Union, McCaul Lombardi, Eman Esfandi.
This film examining the toxic masculinity and institutional bigotry and homophobia of the military is based on director Elegance Bratton’s own experiences as a gay black man trying to become a US Marine.
Bratton’s alter ego here is Ellis French (played by Jeremy Pope), who we first meet living in a crowded homeless shelter. He has been living on the streets of New York for nearly a decade after having thrown out of his home by his deeply religious mother Inez (Gabrielle Union) who is unable to accept that he is gay. But French is determined to do something important and meaningful with his life and enlists in the marines. This was time of the US military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy towards gays serving in the military.
But at bootcamp French encounters the tough and relentless drill sergeant Laws (played by Bokeem Woodbine), an embittered veteran of Desert Storm who sees it as his mission to break down these new raw recruits and turn them into “monsters”. Laws and squadron leader Harvey (McCaul Lombardi) single out French for a particularly hard time, trying to break him both physically and mentally with plenty of verbal abuse. Another fellow marine Ismail (Eman Esfandi) is also a devout Muslim and suffers persecution. Assistant squad leader Rosales (Raul Castillo) is more sympathetic towards French even though French misconstrues his friendship and support. And French is also occasionally given to over to homoerotic fantasies and dreams that create tension between him and his fellow recruits.
The Inspection is the debut feature film for Bratton following a couple of short films and some television work and the 2019 documentary Pier Kids, and this character study is deeply personal and semi-autobiographical.
We’ve seen these tough, foul mouthed drill sergeants before in plenty of movies – R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge, Oscar winner Louis Gossett jr in An Officer And A Gentleman, Vince Vaughn in Hacksaw Ridge, etc – and now we can add Woodbine to this impressive rogue’s gallery.
Pope, an Emmy and Tony nominated performer who has established himself on television, delivers a strong performance that captures his determination to succeed, his strength and his resilience in the face of outright bullying and bigotry. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his solid performance here that delves beneath the surface of his character. Woodbine has one of the best roles of his career as the unapologetic and uncompromising Laws and he makes the most of it. Lombardi brings a tough and cruel edge to his role as Harvey. Union makes the most of her unsympathetic role as French’s disapproving mother, a deeply religious woman who has a problem with his sexuality.
The Inspection is a tough film to sit through but undoubtedly making it was something of a cathartic experience for Bratton who, ironically, learned his craft making instructional videos for the marine corps.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.