Review by Cade
Being a New Yorker myself, I’m always particularly scrutinous of films that take place in my home city, but Chapter and Verse proved itself to be more than worthy of its setting. Lance Ingram (Daniel Beaty), a former gang member, is now a parolee fresh out of prison and now must make his way on the streets of Harlem, while surviving America’s unjust systems of incarceration. Ingram is an immediately likable protagonist who we can, despite some questionable encounters, infer his genuinely good intentions for those around him. After his parole officer gets him a job at a soup kitchen, he meets Miss Maddy (Loretta Devine), a struggling parent of teenage son Ty (Khadim Diop). When it becomes evident that Ty is getting involved in some illegal gang activity, Lance wants to make sure that the kid doesn’t succumb to the same fate his younger self once did.
Chapter and Verse is director Jamal Joseph’s debut film, and it can most easily be described as heart touching and authentic. It’s definitely impressive how realistic the locations, characters, and events were. One thing in particular I felt was stressed was the absolute brutality of the prison system, even when one is on parole. The difficulties Lance experiences -pertaining not only to race, but to gang culture in inner cities- are still prevalent issues in parts of our nation today- and they were characterized very well in the film.
This wasn’t only a drama though- there was definitely a subtle comedic tone throughout the whole movie, which mostly revolved around the dialogue. It gave the characters more depth, and relieved the pressure of the perilous states many characters found themselves in perpetually. The music used is also worth a mention- Joseph seemed to be quite frequently, but luckily used it appropriately depending on what the scene required, whether it be hip hop or other types of music.
I thought this movie proved itself to be a phenomenal debut from a promising director. All the actors played their roles convincingly and effectively, and it’s themes are very important, if not too obvious at times. Chapter & Verse, arriving on Digital HD May 30 and on DVD and On Demand June 13 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.