Blallywood Film Review: In the Hive
BET recently premiered a new film on its network, “In the Hive”. The film had an all-star ensemble Black cast including Loretta Devine, Michael Clarke Duncan, Vivica A. Fox, Roger Guenvuer Smith, and Jonathan “Lil J” McDaniel. The film was produced and directed by Robert Townsend.
“In the Hive” tells the story of sixteen year old Xtra Keys and the inner city violence that has taken a toll on him. Xtra was born into a life of violence and drugs. His Father, played by Roger Guenvuer Smith, is and has been incarcerated for most of his life because of gang related activities. Because Xtra grew up in the gang life, he had no choice but to become part of it. As a teen father, living with his mother, girlfriend and siblings, Xtra’s life seems to be going downhill. His mother, played by Vivica A. Fox, loses her job and is engrossed in the world of prostitution. With no positive role models around him, Xtra’s lack of motivation to succeed catches up with him as he is threatened with incarceration if he continues to skip out on school. He is given another chance when he is ordered to attend an alternative school, “The Hive”. His life changes for the better when he realizes his talents and that there are people who are rooting for him.
The story line is not unusual as many other films have told the same story. “A teenage boy involved in the gang life is given another chance to start fresh when the right help comes along. “ Although the plot is simple, the performances are grand.
The late Michael Clarke Duncan is riveting as Mr. Hollis. Hollis is the assistant and disciplinarian at “The Hive”. His concern and love carry over as he patiently worked with the troubled young men and taught them how to live in the world as responsible adult men while successfully pursuing a career of their choice. In one particular scene, Duncan shines. During an award ceremony, the young men joke about being Black and singled out. Hollis does not take this lightly as he corners all the young men and gives them a dose of reality when he presents them with a few statistics on young African-American men and where they end up.
Loretta Divine is stunning as Mrs. Inez, the Executive Director at “The Hive”. Devine’s character is a no non-sense, take charge woman who makes it her purpose to support each and every young man by loving them they way they need to be loved. Mrs. Inez is saddened to know of the failing academic levels each student faces so she enlist the help of a young woman from the “Teach for America” program. With the help of Ms. Whitmore, each student shows significant progress academically, as they overcome previous struggles with reading and writing. Devine gives her all in this performance which will leave you wanting more.
Vivica A. Fox does a good job as a careless mother who is more focused on the street life rather than her children and home. Fox’s performance is not an astounding one but there are great moments between her and McDaniel as they dispute over responsibilities and poor career choices. Although Fox’s character is not a great example of a Mother, she parents the best way she knows how.
Jonathan McDaniel’s is incredible as Xtra Keys. His portrayal of a troubled young man is right on point and he delivers. McDaniel’s connection with his fellow cast members is very solid as his performance flows throughout the film. In many instances, McDaniel’s performance was greatly and convincingly real.
When Xtra realizes that “The Hive” has immensely improved many of his skill sets, he basks in a pool of motivation and realization that he can do anything that he sets his mind on. Although Xtra is being rewarded at school for his accomplishments, his personal life is on the verge of a downfall. His girlfriend does not like the new person he has become because no one gave her the same chance and his Father has been informed that Xtra has turned his back on the streets.
Xtra’s girlfriend moves out but he begs her not to take his son. His mother has now been incarcerated and all of the burdens are falling on him. When Mrs. Inez learns of Xtra’s personal struggles, she invites him and his siblings to come and stay with her until she finds a solution to their housing situation. Xtra goes back home to grab a few things and he is bombarded by a crew of the 6-8 gang members that he left. Xtra decides to leave the lifestyle because he wanted to provide a better life for his family. With threats to shoot and kill him, Xtra walks away without a scratch.
In the Hive is an overall great film and provides young African-American boys with hope and the possibilities of second chances.
“In the Hive” includes supporting performances by Michael Coley, Percy Daggs II, and Lavon Davis as Xtra’s close friends and classmates. Check out BET’s listings for the re-airing of “In the Hive”.