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'The Chi' Recap: On Ep. 6, There's No Singular Black Experience, No Matter The Outside Perception

Last week on The Chi, Brandon and Kevin bonded over a haircut and the very different ways they grieved losing a father, displaying the multitude of the black man’s character. Both are affected by death—one sheds tears, the other remains stoic, and yet they are both genuinely black.

This dynamic black experience becomes central to Ep. 6 within the first few minutes. Keisha runs through the different parts of Chicago in her track uniform, passing black people of all ages before ending her route in the bathroom to change and get dolled up for her new boyfriend. For a city pejoratively dubbed “Chiraq” by national media, comparing the city’s gang warfare to that of a war-torn country like Iraq, Keisha’s casual run sheds light on the diversity of blackness in Chicago that gets routinely homogenized in bloodshed.

To elucidate this point, The Chi consciously places its black characters with similar looking life situations in scenes together before making it clear how different their lives are. Emmett and Brandon work in the same food truck and are both young black men struggling to make their futures work. Inside the truck, Emmett complains about the mothers of his children requesting that he provides the child support they deserve. Once Emmett mentions to Brandon about wishing he had a mature, stable woman like Brandon has in Jerrika, their experiences diverge.

Emmett really is the catalyst for the most profound reinforcements of the varying black experiences. In one scene, Emmett declares he is “grown” and says his absent father is one to talk when his father dismissively tosses the letter from the child support office towards him. That small jab at his dad reinforces in our minds that the two characters are different versions of the same black absentee father. Emmett’s father literally gives his son two options on how to deal with his child support situation—either lie to the system or work with it. Those two choices can eventually lead him down two different paths to be two different types of fathers.

The stigma of absent black fathers has been permeated throughout film and popular culture for decades. Seldom are their complexities explored, even if they’re more rooted in reality than the stigma. According to a 2015 paper from National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black fathers who did not live with their children were nearly twice as likely to bathe and dress their children than their white counterparts. So, when Emmett and the three mothers of his children come to a child support agreement outside of the system, it becomes a testament to how black families are not monolithic arrangements of misery.

Then, Jerrika comes face to face with the same Alderman Bonner (Phillip Edward Van Lear) who chastised her for working with Ms. Brown and excluding affordable housing from Brown’s new property. This time, they meet outside a protest on Ms. Brown’s private property, which Jerrika accuses the alderman of manufacturing. Jerrika advises Ms. Brown businesswoman against calling the police against the protestors because of how police treat protests in Chicago. However, when speaking to Bonner, she calls those same protests “rental riots,” showing how the same black woman can be both for and against the people, depending on her audience.

But, it’s not until the alderman’s insidious plan is revealed that we see that the he and Jerrika are two sides of the same coin. Bonner, who is depicted as a champion of the community and paragon of righteousness by his dismissal of Jerrika and Ms. Brown’s decision , uses black protests as a way to extort money from Jerrika, a woman he thinks is not helping the community. However, to complicate matters, the money he wants is for a community center.

The people of Chicago have had to deal with the moral ambiguities of their elected officials for decades. Chicago has had 30 aldermen convicted of crimes in 47 years, with the most recent conviction of South Side Ald. Willie Cochran over misuse of campaign funds occurring less than two months before this week’s episode aired.

At one point in the episode, Jake is accused by his teachers and the principal of posting a standardized test and its answer key online. Using the street smarts he says he acquired from the TV show The First 48, he knew to ask for a lawyer since they needed his confession to resolve the issue. Small caveats like these don’t just simply sustain an episodic theme, but also help broaden our understanding of The Chi’s characters as well as the black experience, in general.

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Trailer: 20 Years After His Death, Houston Legend DJ Screw's Life Coming To A Network Near You

There are many stories that define the emergence of styles within the world of hip-hop, yet one of the most influential tales will be told for all to be inspired by, and that story is the life of Houston's legendary Robert Earl Davis, Jr. aka DJ Screw. Known now as the innovator of the "chopped and screwed" style birthed in the 90s of slowing down the speed of hip-hop jams to that of a crawl, where the lyrics drawl out and the beats stretch and your head has no choice but to bob.

The new episodic series, titled All Screwed Up, is directed by producer/filmmaker Isaac "Chill" Yowman and is based on the life of DJ Screw and the happenings of his Screwed Up Click label. The trailer shows the many dramatic points in the young Screw's journey to recognition. From crosstown rivals to police harassment, to building a music empire around talented gangstas, the situations he pushed through created the sound that proved to live on beyond his life.

2020 makes 20 years since Screw passed on from what was labeled a codeine overdose in his studio. There are still street stories about what happened to Screw and all the possibilities, but what is for sure is this man's contributions to hip-hop culture can't be denied. His handprint is all over the slowed down and chopped up productions that permeate all of today's top-charting artists from Drake, to Kendrick, to Future to Travis Scott to name a few.

Watch the trailer above and be on the lookout for the network that will carry this sure-fire hit of a series. In the meantime, check out one of Screw's original tapes with his Screwed Up Click below.

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‘Bad Boys 4’ Is Reportedly In The Works

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are reportedly returning for another installment of the Bad Boys franchise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bad Boy’s 4 is already in the works.

Bad Boys for Life script writer Chris Bremner will return for Bad Boy’s 4, the outlet reported on Friday (Jan. 17). No word yet on when the film will be released, but fans can expect a much shorter wait than the 17-year gap between Bad Boy’s 2 and Bad Boys for Life. The film was delayed due to script issues.

“I just didn’t want to wreck the franchise,” Smith told Elliott Wilson during a CRWN interview last month. Lawrence echoed his words in an interview with GQ magazine.

“The script wasn’t right. And Will, to his credit, refused to do the movie until the script was right. It wouldn’t have been a good movie. We dint’ want that. We wanted to do a sequel where people would go, ‘Oh man, that’s what I’m talking about. It just get better.’”

Bad Boy’s for Life opened on Friday and is expected to bring in more than $67 million in its debut weekend.

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Review: 'Bad Boys For Life' Proves To Be A Promising Crowd-Pleasing Throwback

“We ride together, we die together” never really made that much sense as a slogan, did it? Regardless, the line that epitomized the appeal of Bad Boys, the uber-violent action buddy cop franchise that turned Martin Lawrence and Will Smith into movie stars back in the mid-90s. Smith and Lawrence– now fiftysomethings– are back for a third go-round with surprising and enjoyable new tricks.

In 2003, the eight years between Bad Boys seemed like an eternity. But there’s been seventeen years between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys For Life—the former hit theaters before an iPhone ever existed, just as the so-called War On Terror was hitting full swing and a wide-eyed Beyonce embarked on a nascent solo career. If the buddy cop genre was on life support in the early 2000s, the formula is almost completely post-mortem in 2020; most buddy cop flicks in more recent times have been subversive spoofs (like 2010s The Other Guys) or unfunny one-offs (like the forgettable CHiPs).

This time around, Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) face the realities of middle age. Burnett is happy to waltz into retirement and into “Papa” territory, exhausted from chasing kingpins. Lowry, on the other hand, is ever more of an adrenaline junkie than in the past; addicted to the thrill and holding on to a “bulletproof” playboy image that’s getting sadder and sadder—particularly when he’s forced to admit he wrecked a promising relationship with fellow officer Rita (Paola Nunez) and every time he peppers his bravado with Millennial-speak like “Turn up” and “One Hunnid.”

Lowry’s disappointment in Burnett’s desire to leave the force turns into something harsher after a shooting forces Mike to take stock and Marcus distances himself from his old partner. Of course, this is all just a set up for the duo to reconnect in the face of tragedy—along with a gaggle of new recruits led by Rita; including a computer geek who may or may not be a killing machine, a young tough guy who hates Lowry for apparently no reason, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Bad Boys For Life has more heart than the lunkheaded Bad Boys II, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Ballah don’t forego the departed Michael Bay’s formula for punchlines and hyperkinetic violence; there’s an opening knife sequence that’s almost gratuitously graphic, and an action set-piece on a bridge that may be the most ambitious in the series. There’s only a passing mention of Burnett’s sister (played by Gabrielle Union in the previous film) and an obligatory callback to II’s funniest moment involving his daughter, but a lot of the movie’s emotional core sits with Smith’s Mike Lowry. Smith plays his first action star with an almost meta-level of intensity.

He’s the sum of all Will Smith’s Will Smithiness in one character and gets to play with the idea of Lowry’s machismo persona. Together with the recognition that Lawrence isn’t really an action star (the film smartly turns his affinity for sitting and watching as Smith jumps headfirst into heroics into a running gag), it’s a good turn for the characters and helps elevate the second half of the movie after a somewhat rote first half.

As the film’s “big bad,” Telenovela action star Kate del Castillo isn’t given a whole lot to do, nor is Jacob Scipio as Armas, as her son and steely hitman, who is on the hunt for Lowry. Reliably familiar support from Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife and Joe Pantoliano as the perpetually-flustered police captain Conrad Howard reminds everyone that this is a Bad Boys flick, and the actors clearly relish jumping back into their long-standing roles.

But these films always work best when Smith and Lawrence get to quip lines back-and-forth while dodging bullets, and the easy partnership between the two remains intact, even when the film lags under its own clichés or the sentiment borders on silly. There’s a twist that feels especially contrived and so many self-referential moments where Marcus and Mike seem to almost know that they’re in a movie about Marcus and Mike (who say “Bad boys for life” as a wedding toast, really?), but there’s a breeziness to the proceedings that feels more in line with the easy fun of the 1995 original—as opposed to the frenetically hyperactive feel of its sequel.

Anyone who is excited to see Bad Boys For Life wants to go into it for what these movies have always managed to give their fans; just enough comedy sprinkled with just enough to story to justify eye-popping action sequences and RoboCop-levels of bloodshed. The buddy cop genre was always predictable, but the best of it—classics like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and, yes, the first Bad Boys film—has always been a fun night at the movies.

In that regard, Bad Boys For Life doesn’t disappoint. It’s coasting on the easygoing partnership of Smith and Lawrence, as it always has. 25 years ago, they were two of the biggest stars on television, making a somewhat unlikely leap to action stardom in a movie initially written for then-Saturday Night Live comedians Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz that was being directed by a guy most people had never heard of. We may be a vastly different audience today than we were in the 1990s or 2000s, but there’s some fun in watching how different Mike and Marcus are too.

Franchises like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon seem like big blockbuster brands of yesteryear, as a whole generation of moviegoers have grown up with vast comic book spectacles or rapid-chase car flicks overpopulated with musclebound tough guys. As such, Bad Boys For Life stands as a sort of throwback in popcorn entertainment; that reliable action-comedy that coasts on the chemistry and charisma of its leads—more so than otherworldly special effects or universe-building.

The constant mentions of “One last time” statements remind the audience that this could be the final go-round for Mike and Marcus. Big box office returns can reroute retirements, but if this is indeed the grand finale for Bad Boys, there are worse ways to go out. In a world where Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour 3 exist (with talk of another in the Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan series coming down the pike), Bad Boys For Life should be praised for what it does manage to do so well. It’s fun, violent escapism that doesn’t ask too much of anyone. And sometimes that’s really all we need these movies to be.

Bad Boys For Life opens in theaters Friday, January 17.

Director(s): Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Jacob Scipio, Alexander Ludwig, Kate del Castillo, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Nicky Jam, DJ Khaled.

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