Shadowboxer (2005) - Lee Daniels

A deliriously unconventional take on the lives of two professional killers, award-winning producer (Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman) Lee Daniels’ first attempt at direction packs a potent punch of action, romance, sex and humor — all within a wryly twisted, never predictable storyline. Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. are Rose and Mikey, a professional hit team as well as inter-generational, inter-racial and somewhat incestuous lovers living in a chic Philadelphia high-rise. Despite the fact that Rose is suffering from cancer, the two systematically finish off their “contracts” with a steely efficiency that leaves no room for emotions or mistakes. But when a contracted hit — initiated by Kingston (Stephen Dorff), a trigger-tempered thug — at a suburban mansion involves killing a pregnant woman, it momentarily melts Rose’s glacial heart. Her maternal instincts ignited, Rose and a reluctant but obedient Mikey decide to hide the woman, intent on raising the child themselves. While the always dependable Mirren is good, acting kudos go out to others: Gooding, Jr., for his complex, moody, sexual and confused portrayal of an emotionally repressed killer; Dorff, for his incredibly creepy role as a hardened criminal with serious sadist tendencies; Mo’Nique as the foul-mouthed lover of a seriously younger Joseph Gordon-Levitt; and Macy Gray as a brazen floozy with a motor-mouth. These unforgettable characters coupled with lush cinematography and a plot one will be talking about long after the film has ended make for one unforgettable directorial debut for Daniels.

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