Updated: Nov 12
In my film reviews, I start with the benchmark of five stars and then deduct half or one point if the film falls short in any of the following categories: · Storyline · Screenplay · Acting · Direction · Character Arcs
The reviews are my opinions alone.
Paramount+’s latest limited series, “Lawmen: Bass Reeves,” takes us through the remarkable journey of Bass Reeves, who escaped the chains of slavery to become one of the earliest Black deputy US Marshals and the first west of the Mississippi. The series opens with an intense scene in which Bass narrowly escapes a fierce battle between Union and Confederate forces, an engagement he was coerced into by his enslaver, Arkansas legislator William Reeves. The plot thickens as Bass flees Arkansas after a confrontation with William’s son, George, stemming from a card game that would have freed Bass had George not cheated.
Bass settles in Native American territory, finding solace with a Seminole woman and her young son. Post-slavery, after the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment, Bass attempts a return to normalcy with his family in Arkansas, engaging in farming with limited success. When Indian Territories judge Isaac Parker gives US Marshal James Fagan the mandate to recruit 200 deputies, Fagan recruits Bass, proficient in Native American languages and an exceptional marksman. The film beautifully portrays Bass’s love of family, humane values, and internal conflict as a law enforcer.
The film has a stellar performance by David Oyelowo (also known as “David O”), a renowned actor with an impressive repertoire, including his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Selma.” This film, “Lawmen,” showcases Oyelowo’s mastery over languages and accents, placing him in a league of accent legends like Meryl Streep. His supporting cast, including June Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Donald Sutherland, Bill Dawes, and Lauren E Banks, adds depth and dimension to the narrative.
“Lawmen: Bass Reeves” serves as a poignant reflection of America’s troubled history encompassing the colonization of Native lands, the brutality of slavery, the culture of gun violence, and the racial dynamics in political appointments. Despite Reeves’s distinguished 32-year career as a lawman and accomplished detective who captured up to 3000 felons without sustaining injury, we know much more about Wyatt Earp than Bass Reeves.
David Oyelowo’s emotive portrayal is a standout, effectively depicting Bass’s complex emotional spectrum. Though rich and evocative, the screenplay occasionally lapses into overindulgence, potentially impacting the film’s pacing.
David Oyelowo trained to ride horses for a year before filming began.
• Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
• Storyline: Heart-stirring and compelling
• Screenplay: Eloquent, albeit with sporadic excesses
• Acting: Exceptional performances across the board
• Direction: Clear vision with impeccable execution
• Character arcs: Intricately developed
So far, this film series is a must-watch cinematic experience that has captured a vital chapter of American history and the extraordinary life of Bass Reeves. The first two episodes of Lawmen: Bass Reeves premiere on Paramount+ on Sunday, November 5, with additional episodes to follow every Sunday.