STARRING Jameel Saleem, Kimelia Weathers, Quincy "QDeezy" Harris, Noelle Balfour, Nick Sinise, Big Boy and Kevin Hart DIRECTED BY Michael Whitton SCREENPLAY Jameel Saleem (Screenplay, Characters) w/Characters by Rick Fontaine, Mustafa Harris, Reign Morton, Kimelia Weathers MPAA RATING NR RUNNING TIME 90 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Level 33 Entertainment DVD EXTRAS Bloopers Reel; Kevin Hart Video Log From Set; Exclusive Bonus Content
"Exit Strategy" Review
When James (Jameel Saleem) gets evicted from his apartment, he's forced to move in with his girlfriend of three months, Kim (Kimelia Weathers) - unfortunately, he quickly discovers that Kim is everything he never wanted in a woman. Kim, on the other hand, isn't quite so ready to give up on the relationship.
A disjointed yet mostly entertaining "unromantic comedy" directed by Michael Whitton, Exit Strategy somehow manages to weave together equal parts wit, warmth, wackiness and a far darker streaker than one usually finds in this type of comedy. In fact, it's that dark streak that mostly against the film as neither leading character is particularly likable and Kim, in particular, is painted quite early on as a beast of a woman with whom you'd almost have to be a tad off-kilter to actually fall in love.
The film actually works best when it's focused away from Kim and James and, instead, is primarily centered around James's offbeat yet winning group of friends like Carville (Quincy "QDeezy" Harris) and Leona ("Noelle Balfour). The film also benefits from the presence of Big Boy and the always funny Kevin Hart, an actor who has made quite a name for himself both as a stand-up comic and in big budget and indie comedies.
The darkness shows up in a variety of wars, not all of them convincing. Kim, for example, compares her new beau to a rapist because he had the gall to present her with 10 roses rather than the customary 12. Then, there's the matter of Kim's Vicky Cristina Barcelona obsessed father (Sid Burston), whose intensity might be more at home in The Stepfather.
It's the dark streaks in Exit Strategy that make you wish that either Whitton had committed to making this an all our dark comedy or, adversely, he'd stuck to making the film a formulaic yet warm-hearted and winning one. There's no question that the cast is quite able, with Jameel Saleem projecting a subdued normalcy that simmers just enough that you have the feeling he was holding back some fine improvisational work. Saleem has a tremendous energy and screen presence, and it's easy to picture his either going toe-to-toe against Kim or falling madly for her. Kimelia Weathers, as well, occasionally plays Kim as downright psychotic, yet also has a warmth about her that keeps you intrigued by her character.
Supporting players Quincy "QDeezy" Harris and Noelle Balfour do a nice job as James's supportive yet taunting best friends, while both Big Boy's and Kevin Hart's appearances add a nice touch to the film. The aforementioned Burston, leaves you constantly wondering what's going on underneath the surface.
While Exit Strategy doesn't quite satisfy on the level that one might hope, mostly owing to the lack of time we really spend getting to know James and Kim before they move in together, the film's able cast and light, breezy direction add up to a film that works far more often than when it doesn't.
Exit Strategy is being released on home video and VOD by Level 33 Entertainment on June 5th, 2012. You can win your own copy of the DVD right here on The Independent Critic. Visit the DVD's contest link on the homepage for more information!