Movie Review: BLUE STORY

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In Blue Story, we have well-crafted film that presents quite a compelling, if not unfamiliar tale about London youths caught up in an ongoing cycle of violence and, while following several tough young characters battling with each other and fate, poses a chicken or egg question: which comes first? Violence in the streets or violence on the screen?

Written and directed by the enormously talented Andrew Onwubolu, aka Rapman, the scenario is set in working class south-east London on the border between Peckham and Lewisham, two primarily Black economically challenged neighborhoods ruled (or ravaged) by rival gangs whose unexplained hatred for each other fuels an endless cycle of violent attacks and retaliations. Anchoring the rivalry are childhood buddies Tim and Marco (Stephen Odubola and Micheal Ward) who are caught up in a mortal conflict because of their older brothers’ affiliations with rival gangs.

Blue Story is Rapman’s first feature, following the multimillion views success of his three part YouTube series, Shiro’s Story, and replicating its music video storytelling style. Throughout the film, Rapman appears on camera as the rapping narrator, delivering rhymed voice over commentary about the the characters’ relationships, individual struggles, intrigues and violence. In counterpoint to the action, the rap boldly points out the physical and emotional anguish that arises from gang violence, not only for the gang members who are directly involved, but also for their families and everyone living in their neighborhoods. The rapped message, loud and clear, is that violence is — plain and simple — a really bad life style choice that leads to nowhere good for those who see little opportunity to escape unpromising coming of age circumstances.

That said, Blue Story is well-crafted, compelling and established the gritty and difficult realities of life in southeast London with undeniable authenticity, while fine charismatic performances by Stephen Odubola and Micheal Ward — and the rest of the ensemble — turn these neighborhood youths into victim-of-circumstances heroes who can easily be seen by kids caught up in similar circumstances as role models — stand up guys who are soldiers in the same army, who are loyal to each other no matter what the consequences and consider the taking revenge to be a rite of passage. They are ripe for emulation. But they don’t suggest possibilities for escape.

These days, viewing violence on screen is so commonplace that it’s no longer shocking. In Blue Story, the engaging staging, stylish cinematography and exhilarating editing make brutal beatings and shootouts seem like choreographed sequences in music videos, while Rapman’s hard-hitting rhymes suggest that the scenario has almost mythic status. But, the presentation of violence, even at its most gruesome, is too slick to stick. And, sadly, witnessing audiences cheer for bloodletting on screen.

Hence the chicken and egg question. Does Rapman’s driving narration really steer viewers to a new vision of violence in society and on screen or does violence-imbued Blue Story fan the flames of violence in its fan base? Discussion welcome.


Title: Blue Story

Director: Rapman (as Andrew Onwubolu)

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Running Time: 108 minutes

Language: English (strong accents)

Screenwriter: Rapman (as Andrew Onwubolu)

Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures


Official Website

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