The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - CINNAMON | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - CINNAMON

Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - CINNAMON
Two young lovers' plan to make money backfires in violent fashion.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.

Starring: Hailey Kilgore, David Iacono, Pam Grier, Damon Wayans, Jeremie Harris

Cinnamon poster

Few writers have seen their work translate to the screen as poorly as crime novelist Elmore Leonard. While some cracking westerns have been adapted from his writing, Leonard's crime thrillers have been nowhere near as successful in their screen translations. The main exception is John Frankenheimer's 52 Pick-up, which captured the scuzziness of the characters that populate Leonard's crime fiction. For some reason I could never fathom, most filmmakers adapting Leonard have opted to infuse the drama with comedy and cartoonish characters, turning Leonard's compelling roster of scuzzballs into over the top caricatures.

Debut writer/director Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.'s Cinnamon is an entirely original creation but it resembles many of those misfiring Leonard adaptations. It boasts a well-woven thriller plot and some potentially interesting characters, but Montgomery Jr. dials everything up to 11, with one particular performance so annoying and misjudged it collapses the whole affair. What could have been a nail-biting thriller is derailed by misjudged comic hijinks.

Cinnamon review

That aforementioned performance comes courtesy of Marlon Wayans, well known for his mugging ways. He plays Wally, a small time entrepreneur who owns a string of businesses including a gas station. One night while closing said gas station, young employee Jodi (Hailey Kilgore) is interrupted by an antsy man in a cowboy hat who insists on using the restroom. While he's doing what a man's gotta do, another man in a motorcycle helmet pulls a gun and orders Jodi to empty the safe behind the counter. When the cowboy emerges from the restroom and attempts to play the hero, he's shot dead by the masked raider, who flees the scene.

All is not what it initially seems with this incident, as we flashback several months and watch as events are set in motion leading to that fateful night. Jodi is seduced by Eddie (David Iacono, a young Eric Roberts), a charismatic thief who uses the proceeds of his illegal activity to pay for aspiring singer Jodi to record a single. Planning to relocate to Los Angeles for the sake of Jodi's musical ambitions, the pair concoct a plan to make some quick cash.

Cinnamon review

Jumping forward to the aftermath of the opening scene, we see how Wally is involved with a dangerous local crime family headed by a mute matriarch (Pam Grier). Suspecting Wally of engineering the robbery himself, they begin an investigation that sets them on a collision course with Jodi and Eddie.

Cinnamon's plot has enough neat twists and turns to suggest it could have been a successful thriller if it played its narrative for thrills rather than cheap laughs. Most of those cheap laughs revolve around Wally, who is played in such an over the top manner by Wayans that the character completely deflates the tension every time he appears on screen. It's a shame because as the central couple, Kilgore and Iacono share a convincing chemistry and are likeable enough for us to initially root for them to pull off their plans.

Cinnamon review

I say initially, as the film never reckons with the tragic consequences of their actions. Despite being portrayed as an affable young couple, Jodi and Eddie never show any remorse for the bloodshed that ensues when their plan goes afoul, which makes it difficult to get behind them as the plot unfolds. It's only because the nominal villains are so sociopathic that Jodi and Eddie remain in the heroic spotlight. Like so many of the Tarantino knockoffs of the '90s, Cinnamon revels in its violence but lacks the maturity to reckon with its consequences. It also shares that annoying '90s tendency for overwritten dialogue, with various characters monologuing in a self-satisfied manner that the bland writing really doesn't justify.

2023 movie reviews