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"Cinnamon" Review

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.'s directorial-debut is a funny, romantic, harrowing tale that has weaves Blaxploitation into the modern-era seamlessly

Love, theft, and death in style; perhaps one of the most succinct ways to describe a classic Blaxploitation film, and Cinnamon fits the bill quite nicely.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the directorial-debut of Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr., Cinnamon is the story of young gas station attendant Jodi Jackson (Hailey Kilgore) meeting slick street-hustler Eddie (David Iacano), leading to sparks flying between the pair of lovebirds and a risky plan to pursue Jodi's dream of being a singer through conducting a robbery at her place of work.

At first, the job seems to be a success despite the death of a patron in the middle of the heist; that is until the couple finds themselves caught in the crosshairs of a crime family lead by the vengeful Mama (Pam Grier) seeking her stolen money and pound of flesh.

Cinnamon effortlessly weaves influences and stylings of the Blaxploitation-genre into a modern-setting; from the more in-your-face details like the slow-zooms into a gun-barrel, floating title cards across the screen, and the smooth musical score that knows when to ramp up for the more intense sequences; to the script (written by Montgomery) at play, presenting twists and turns that keep the audience on their toes and reeling from one wild development to the next.

The film would not stand on it's own well enough without the performances at work to give Cinnamon that extra bit of personality. Kilgore and Iacano deliver the necessary charisma and chemistry needed for their characters as well as their romance to be worth rooting for (Kilgore puts her singing voice to work as well, wonderfully-demonstrating her versatility and presenting herself as the kind of star Jodi would strive to be).

Damon Wayans also stars as Jodi's boss and carwash owner Wally, who adds an appreciated but not too overbearing amount of humor to the story to keep some degree of levity in the story. He spends quite a bit of screen-time in the film bouncing off of dialogue with Jeremie Harris' James Walker, who's cowboy hat and trusty revolver go well with his affinity for violence.

Arguably the biggest star in the film, and not just because she IS the biggest star who came to set, is the legendary Pam Grier, who portrays the revenge-thirsting crime boss Mama. You will likely hear reactions from those that have just got out of seeing Cinnamon believing that Grier deserved more of a presence in the film, and perhaps those that believe so are right, but no one can deny that in every scene she's in, Grier's Mama is commanding the attention of more than just those sharing the screen with her. A lack of lines is compensated by a stillness to her, a quiet fury that erupts into acts of rage to do their intended job of clarifying just what kind of trouble Jodi and Eddie have gotten themselves into. Given that many going to see Cinnamon will likely recognize Grier from her iconic heroine roles in the past, they may be taken aback somewhat with her portrayal here; but if so, let it be a welcomed reminder that Grier's versatility is not to be questioned.

Overall, Cinnamon is a very solid addition to the expansive Blaxploitation genre, offering an engaging tale of love and vengeance that doesn't waste your time through overcomplicating it's plot threads as well as displaying stylistic-choices indicating a confidence in directing out of Montgomery Jr. Whether you're interested in checking out a directorial-debut film, seeing a Pam Grier as the head of a modern-day outlaw family, or just enjoy a good story about love intertwined with crime, Cinnamon delivers.

By Noah Kidane


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