Square-jawed white guy Jake (Andrew Brooks Gagne) is having a bad day. First, he wakes up late for his job interview. Then, his car won’t start, so he hops a train…and immediately falls asleep, missing his stop. Did I mention he’s also forgotten his phone? It seems punctuality and responsibility aren’t Jake’s strong points; maybe this is why he doesn’t have a job.
He awakens (for the second time) at the end of the line, a town called Coleville, where an old woman warns him not to get off the train — and with good reason: the town is ruled with an iron fist by a black man named Rasheem “Robbie” Reynolds (John Mapp) who hates white people more than white people hate Mexicans. He hates them so much, in fact, that he enslaves them, forcing “the Whites” to work on his marijuana plantation before ultimately killing them. (If you ask me, killing your workforce doesn’t seem like the smartest business strategy, but hey, I’m no drug kingpin.)
Because Jake sticks out like a sore thumb in Coleville, he’s quickly targeted by Rasheem’s men, but a sympathetic young black waitress named Meniah (Kiara McKnight) helps him evade their clutches…at least, for a while. Basically, they just go back and forth between being caught and escaping several times, plus we meet a few white slaves and Meniah’s brother and mother, and we listen to Rasheem bloviate about how a couple of white guys killed his father, so now he hates all white people, yadda yadda yadda, aliens show up. Wait, what? Aliens?
A rare genre movie from a black female filmmaker (Rhonda Harmon), Coleville has an interesting premise — a Twilight Zone-ish reverse slavery scenario sort of like the movie White Man’s Burden — but ultimately, it’s little more than a premise. Its ham-fisted execution feels like a blind shot in the dark at making a movie, and, well, I suppose it is indeed a movie, so, um…congratulations?
There are moments that, in a better movie, could’ve resonated within the current racial and political environment: Rasheem giving white captives “black” slave names (Jake becomes Omar), his using economic power to keep the black townspeople loyal, and his bragging that the sort of police abuse that’s plaguing the rest of the nation is nonexistent in his dictatorship.
But such moments are lost in an avalanche of filmmaking ineptitude, from clunky editing to banal dialogue, ineffective musical cues, uneven sound, a confused timeline (there are flashbacks involving random characters that give no indication they are flashbacks), amateurish direction (out-of-focus shots, shots of the backs of people’s heads), performances that are either too low-key or too bombastic and an increasingly nonsensical script that decides halfway through to toss in Caucasian-eating aliens.
To be honest, this sci-fi twist (and some inexplicable kung-fu) at least adds some life into a plot that was threatening to flatline, raising it from borderline intolerable to borderline so-bad-it’s-good territory. After all, terrible and memorable is better than terrible and forgettable.