Much like FRUITVALE STATION (See Sept. 24 review), we are presented with the aftermath of an event at the very beginning of the film and we see what leads up to it. But with the story of Oscar Grant it’s about understanding that even with all his foibles, at his core, Grant was a good person, with the story of John Allen Muhammad (aka the “Beltway Sniper”) this is a tale about someone who is a essentially a monster with no regard for human life.
The story is chilling and taut, but told in an unconventional way. It’s a slow build character drama and the violence that Muhammad and his surrogate son Lee Boyd Malvo wrought is only hinted at or shown in glimpses. Malvo (played by Tequan Richmond) is our window into this cold world. Living in Antigua, the young boy feels abandoned by his mother and meets Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) who takes him under his wing as his mentor. Still fuming from a messy child custody dispute with his wife, Muhammad is angry at the world and this grows exponentially now that he has someone to share his frustrations with. He is full of rage but portrays himself as the victim.
We slowly watch as he seduces the impressionable boy with his rhetoric about society and the need to push back against those that oppress them. There is a horror in how mundane the idea to kill comes and how meticulous they are in deciding on their course of action and the randomness of their kills.
I found the movie compelling but my complaint would be that it ends too abruptly and I felt I needed more of the aftermath once they’re taken into custody. For a film very light on dialogue, I needed more of an understanding from that perspective, but my impression was that the filmmakers were attempting to present the material in a matter of fact manner and for the viewer to try to find their own understanding in these senseless acts of violence.