Almost all American Black Neighborhood slum stories center on young men making a valiant effort to run away from a life of crime and fail. Charm City Kings promises no special case. The Movie brilliantly speaks of the sweat and blood of Baltimore’s black community and doesn’t deter away from violence.
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto, the movie focuses on a 14-year-old teenager Mouse played by Jahi Di’Allo Winston. Mouse and his friends Sweartagawd played by Kezii Curtis, and Lamont, played by Donielle T. Hansley Jr, spend their summers like any other teenage kids.
Mouse desperately wishes for a seat in Baltimore’s Midnight Clique dirt-bike crew. The crew is led by the dreaded Blax (Meek Mill), who takes Mouse under his wings as he blames himself for the death of his older brother Stro. As the drama continues, Mouse learns the hard way that every action shares an equal and opposite reaction, and things aren’t always what they seem.
Mouse is a clever, sweet kid who cares for animals. He scores well in his subjects and regularly volunteers at a local pet clinic. Yet, he is hypnotized by the charm of the Midnight Clique, the biker gang his brother was a member of.
Mouse starts twisting wrenches at Blax’s garage and learns about the ins and outs of dirt biking. Mouse is drawn more towards the illicit actions of the club and its potential. The teenager who once wished to become a veterinarian shies away from his love for animals and submits to fast money guaranteed by the club. From what we see, “Charm City Kings’ ‘ is just another story voicing the disparity between being a boy and a man, to everybody and explicitly to Baltimore’s black community.
Jahi Di’Allo Winston has done justice to his role. He impeccably embodies this 14-year-old teenager in his efforts in salvaging his place in the world. He seals a personality that you don’t often find in young performers like him; he’ll certainly have a bright career after this. Jahi Di’Allo is joined by Teyonah Parris, who plays Mouse’s mother. Albeit she’s not the protagonist of the movie, but her on-screen appearance is dazzling. In an argument with Mouse Parris, the yells are frightening and brilliantly express a parent’s sorrow when their kids inadvertently put themselves in harm’s way.
Like Winston, Meek Mill ( Blax) does a marvelous job of showing that even with all your flaws, you can still be a mentor to somebody, while William Catlett, as detective Rivers, emphasizes the importance of taking the right turn and staying true to oneself. Donielle T. Hansley Jr portrays Lamont. His character showcases the troubles of disenfranchised people and their bargain to survival.
Kezii Curtis’s role as Sweartagod is the ideal tribute to Black kid satisfaction and honesty. His portrayal of a cheerful, empathetic, and funny sidekick is the fitting complement to the trio.
The movie is shot in Baltimore and nearly manages to get all the details right: stoops, chicken boxes, formstone, boarded houses, dice games, convenience stores where you get your chips and cigarette from.
Although the film deals with complex topics yet it is different from any exploitive Black Films. The movie is free of any distressing monologues, prolonged shots of dead black people, and carefully deals with violence between gangs and police. There’s this one scene where the camera shifts to the crowd enjoying the race with our actors seated next to them, coupling it with reality.
The movie will relate to anybody wanting a real insight into the lives of teenagers and adults who try their best to protect their children. The movie sure includes some gun violence but never fails to show its calm, soft and beautiful side.
The movie is loosely inspired by 12’0 Clock Boys, a documentary about the bikers of Baltimore. Although the movie does seem to lose its pace in the middle, it regains control with its solid ending and fast-paced climax.
Charm City Kings is a must-watch movie about a teenager trying to fit into the fast pacing world. Mouse’s journey to discover himself is filled with life lessons and tragedy, and while some might find this improbable, Mouse’s story isn’t that uncommon.