With Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire set to take over the world upon it's American release in the coming weeks, I thought I would take a look at Lee Daniels' first feature, the 2005 hitman drama Shadowboxer. It appears that one of Daniels' trademarks will be his eclectic casts. People may think the likes of Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz make a far out cast, but that's nothing compared to Shadowboxer.
There's Helen Mirren as a dying assassin, Cuba Gooding Jr as her quasi-adopted son slash love interest, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mobster's private doctor, Mo'Nique as his nurse (and love interest) called - funnily enough - Precious, Stephen Dorff as said mobster, Vanessa Fertillo as the mobster's wife and Macy Gray as... well, I'm not sure what Macy Gray is here to be perfectly honest with you.
The movie is not very good. Not good at all. Always flopping about in various directions, going nowhere in a hurry. Characters routinely just act like bad movie characters to one another and then it ends. Daniels, however, does know how to grab your attention. Whether it's random zebras walking around in gardens or having the likes of Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr perform a strip dance on each other, it's certainly never dull in the way that throwing electrical equipment at people's heads is also never dull, it's just not very productive.
However, when the movie isn't thrusting Stephen Dorff's predominantly shirtless (and occasionally full frontally nude) body at us - and what a delightful time it is when that happens - the film's highlight is clearly Macy Gray as the best friend of Fertillo's mobster wife. I don't know if she adlibbed or if she just slurred her way through Daniels' dialogue, but whatever she was doing it was hilarious. Or, it was until she was unceremoniously slashed out of the picture.
I don't have any concrete evidence, but I am fairly sure that Gray was drunk and/or high when she filmed her scenes here. Her "Neisha" (bless ghetto names) is a tragic mess who drools and drawls and slurs her way through her brief time on screen. She's hilarious and is the only real lift that the film gets (I am not going to joke about the lift Stephen Dorff gets in his now infamous sex scene). Watching Gray flounce about sure is enjoyable and I'm actually glad she's only in the movie for such a short amount of time since any longer and it could have become sad and sorry since it does indeed look as if she was... under an influence or two.
In the end the movie has made me even more excited for Precious in order to see how he went from this oddity to something that could win him and Oscar. If you want to read a review of Precious that also heavily takes into account Shadowboxer then click on over to Nick's Flick Picks as Nick as an ever-thorough review. Amazing as usual.
(images via StinkyLulu)