directed by Christopher C. Odom
starring Markhum Stansbury Jr.
Vendetta Film Works
It’s one thing to walk into a church because you want to worship, and another to find yourself in the center pew when all you wanted was a little cop drama. 23rd Psalm follows Detective John Smith (Stansbury) as he searches for the murderer of street hooker Jesse (Arnita Champion). Clues are few, but he does his job, interviewing Dr. Johnson (Niambi Sims) and Pastor Luther (Mister Jones) and a stable of ghetto types while Bible verses flow across the screen. Satan is rebuked, false prophets avoided, but when a ‘ho turns holy, a pimp is pissed off, and not even a minor prophet from the Old Testament has enough divine authority to wrap up this case.
While soul and gospel music plays, I’m torn. On one hand, this is a heavy-handed religious tract with turgid acting and a script driven by theology rather than story. But on the other, it’s a technically clever low-budget indie that mixes modern technology with the tropes of the classic Blaxploitation films of the ’70s — split images, stereotypical cops and preachers and street smart dealers flow over a reasonably solid sound track. Stansbury seems curiously uninvolved in his own investigation — he keeps a straight solid face, occasionally blusters and bullies and even pulls out Old Testament quotes when police procedure fails. Champion is earnest, strident, and believable as a hooker, but making her an agent of divine will on Earth is a stretch even if she made the guys living under the overpass suddenly turn middle-class. The roster of supporting characters can get their lines off well enough, but not to the point where I believe they are straightened up winos.
If this story jives with your world view, you might join the other friend of the film and give it 10 stars on IMDB. If you’re looking for a rough and ready stylistic view of the streets shot with more gloss than story, this is a technically interesting approach to storytelling. And if you think the only decent quotes come from the King James version of the Bible, join me as we pray: “Our Father, Who art in heaven, please let this story end.”
And now for a few church announcements…