Barbershop set a high mark for black barbershop films. N.O.L.A. Circus is definitely a cut below in every regard and is just an all around poor excuse for a way to waste time.
Jean-Luc Annest is aiming for a Spike Lee/Quentin Tarantino like edgy comedy with a dash of Friday. The trick is Lee and Tarantino were gifted filmmakers who were able to cross the line with provocative dialogue and at times uncomfortable scenes. Annest attempts the same with no sense of awareness and an amazing tone-deafness to some of his imagery. The most egregious is three men in KKK garb forcing a black man to run in a field with only a burlap bag over his head.
In fairness, Lee or Tarantino would struggle to make that scenario comedic as well. They just have the good common sense not to try it in their films. Tarantino made the Klan look like a bunch of goofs in one of the better scenes in Django Unchained. This is an auspicious debut for Annest, who it’s a safe bet probably won’t have the same stories career as either filmmaker.
To his credit, Annest is consistent in his lack of good taste or satire that completely misses the mark. Regardless of ethnic status, physical impediment or social status, N.O.L.A. Circus is an equal opportunity offender.
The ‘script’ centers around two competing barbershops in New Orleans. Marvin (Vas Blackwood) and his can’t get right brothers can’t quite compare to Will (Martin Bradford), who runs a more socially conscious shop.
Will doubles as the film’s narrator framing all of the silliness that awaits. He’s running around with the town hottie, Nola (Jessica Morali). That won’t sit well with her overprotective brother Denzel (Reginal Varice), who’s attacking pizza delivery guys Will said were hanging with Nola. This forces the pizza shop owner, Giuseppe (Ricky Wayne), to call in his enforcer to take him out.
With few exceptions (Wayne, Gianni Boromei), the acting is pretty terrible. I doubt a better script would help their performances, but Annest didn’t do them any favors in that regard either.
The subplots are stupid. One features a character excited because he got a bag of Erika Badyu’s pubic hair. Badyu gets a special acknowledgment in the credits, but it’s very clear why she didn’t actually make a cameo. Another features former WWE/TNA star Taryn Terrell offering to go on a date with a guy provided he can touch his penis with his tongue.
For some reason Annest decided it’d be hilarious to give the characters exaggerated features like awful prosthetic ears and blonde Afros. They looks like clowns. Annest seemed to understand deep down that the film was stupid and just figured goofy outfits and costumes would at least get some sympathy laughs. It doesn’t work.
N.O.L.A. Circus is the kind of rare film that succeeds at failing on every level. I can see what Annest was going for, but he’s not a skilled enough filmmaker at this point in his career to The humor rarely manages more than a third grade level
Rating: 1 out of 10
Photo Credit: Illicit Producers