“Charm City Kings” stars Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, and Teyonah Parris. Released on HBO Max on October 8, 2020, the film is about a teenager who joins an infamous group of dirt-bike riders.
The film is directed by Angel Manuel Soto, who also directed “Frailty” and “The Farm”. It is based on the 2013 documentary “12 O’Clock Boys” by Lofty Nathan. The pandemic may have dampened our movie-going spirit, but it will never take away the one thing that we film fanatics are always excited for: awards season. The one time of year when we watch films that may or may not become Oscar-worthy contenders next year. This year’s looking a lot different than the ones before, mostly due to the fact that the coronavirus is still lurking around and almost all of the businesses, including cinemas, have been closed down temporarily. Right now, Hollywood has been relying on several streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime to showcase the award-worthy films to people that are still keeping themselves safe at home. I usually have to wait for the right time to see a specific film at my closest cinema, but this year, I don’t have to because I can just use one of the streaming services I own to watch it anytime I want. With that in mind, let’s start things off with another film that’s skipping the theatrical release in favor of a streaming service release. The first time I heard of this film was when I saw its trailer that appeared in front of “Bloodshot” in the theater. I know nothing about the documentary it’s based on, but I was interested in it regardless. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait to see it in the theater thanks to HBO Max. With that in mind, let’s get this awards season started with a film about a dirt-biker gang.
The story combines the elements that are inspired by Lofty Nathan’s documentary “12 O’Clock Boys” with a coming-of-age tale about Mouse (Winston), a teenager who dreams of being a part of an infamous dirt bike crew known as The Midnight Clique. The crew’s leader Blax (Mill) takes him and his friends under his wing. Later on, Mouse gets more than what he bargained for when he is starting to feel torn between his normal life and the gang life that’s filled with fast money and violence. Since the film is set in Baltimore, it gives the filmmakers an opportunity to craft a compelling story that showcases the lifestyle of the state’s African-American community, and unsurprisingly, they did their job fairly well. Aside from some of its familiar genre elements and its hit-and-miss emotional beats, the film represents a riveting and cautionary experience that’s powered by the talents of the cast and crew, most notably Jahi Di’Allo Winston and rapper Meek Mill. Winston delivered a worthy performance that’s well-balanced with his character’s emotions without falling into his stereotypical personality, and Mill further proves that putting a music artist in the right role can lead to some remarkable results. “Charm City Kings” marks the acting debut of Meek Mill, who I haven’t listened to that much, and I have to admit that I was impressed with how he handled these skills as a first-time actor. Will Catlett and Teyonah Parris were also great in their roles as Detective Rivers and Terri respectively. This is one of those times where a film relies on the cast to carry the concept forward, even though its narrative falls on the “good” side on the spectrum, and it does it with finesse and passion. The film portrays the community in its own enthralling and beautiful way thanks to its slick cinematography and the sheer confidence of Soto behind the camera, but it’s also not afraid to showcase some of the cons that lie within that lifestyle, such as joining a gang. Plus, the film is stabilized well with some of the dirt-bike skills that were portrayed on screen.
Overall, “Charm City Kings” makes great use of its cast and crew by delivering a well-portrayed and thoughtful drama that’s as skillful as the dirt-bike riders. While it’s far from a masterpiece, the film has a good enough narrative to showcase its coming-of-age elements with ease. Thanks to some splendid performances from the cast and Soto’s directorial style, this is another solid film from HBO Max and a strong start for this year’s awards season. If you’re a fan of coming-of-age films and you have HBO Max under your streaming service belt, this is worth checking out.