J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Destined: Blind Chance, Detroit-Style

Rasheed Smith lives in Detroit, so his destiny is pretty set. However, there could be slight variations, depending on whether he becomes an architect or a drug lord. Either way, Detroit is still Detroit. Qasim Basir follows both parallel lives in the Blind Chance-like (in terms of narrative) Destined (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles.

In one strand of fate, Rasheed the aspiring drug dealer is busted and goes straight. In the other, the more fleet of foot Sheed escapes to master his trade and work his way up the ladder. In both versions, he is good to his mother, but she is more crack-prostitute-ish in the drug kingpin storyline, even though Sheed is the one who could afford to move her out of the projects.

In both narratives, Ra/Sheed is poised to reach the big time in their respective careers, by making Faustian bargains. Sheed the dealer is about to strike a deal with a dodgy South American cartel to supply an expected influx of new gentrification residents, whereas Rasheed has been tapped to serve as the figurehead on a redevelopment project that would turn his old housing project into luxury condos. In each storyline, characters seem bizarrely confident swarms of yuppies are eager to colonize the most blighted block of inner city Detroit.

Naturally, certain characters reappear in each respective branch of fate, including the extraordinary underwhelming Mayor Jones, played with slimy obsequiousness by CSI New York’s Hill Harper. However, there are times when the duality does not make sense, such as Jesse Metcalfe’s Dylan Holder, who is the narc dogging Sheed in one possible destiny and the entitled son of Rasheed’s real estate developer boss in the other.

Frankly, Destined is more like Star Trekian alternate universes than Blind Chance-istic diverging tributaries of fate. In any event, the fatalism of Kieswloski’s film perfectly suited Martial Law-era Poland. Indeed, there are obvious reasons why the Polish masterpiece was withheld from public release since its completion in 1981 until early 1987. In the case of Destined, Basir’s determination to bring the two strands together feels like hollow pretentiousness. As a further frustration, the two alternate timelines are not clearly stylistically delineated, which frequently causes confusion.

Still, Cory Hardrict is appropriately moody as Ra/Sheed and Paula Devicq has some nice moments as his mom. That’s right, the nanny on Party of Five plays the mother of a grown son. Admittedly, this is an ambitious format to tackle, but Kieslowski managed to do it perfectly the first time. Ultimately just sort of okay, but nothing special, Destined opens today (11/17) in LA, at the Arena CineLounge.

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