Idlewild Bryan Barber

Starring the boys from OutKast, Idlewild is a visually and aurally slick gangster movie set in Prohibition-era small town Georgia. The story follows childhood best friends Percival (André Benjamin) and Rooster (Antwan A. "Big Boi” Patton), the former a shy mortician who moonlights as a piano player and the latter a charismatic singer with a head for numbers and a family legacy of bootlegging.

They come together every night at a speakeasy called "the Church” to entertain the crowd with their anachronistic fusion of rap, jazz and blues. The friends both struggle to escape the shackles of their death- and violence-soaked family businesses but first have to deal with the evil Trumpy (Terrence Howard), the menacing thug who takes over the bootlegging business and starts shaking down Rooster and the Church.

Bryan Barber (best known for his work on a number of OutKast videos) directs the film with great style and flair, using cool visual tricks such as animation, fast motion and what looks like the equivalent of record scratching on film. This style, established from the beginning in an amazing sequence about Percival and Rooster’s childhood, sets a fantastical tone for the film that allows us to buy into its mash up of musical/visual styles and genres.

The script does drag in parts and the story embraces so many clichés that it is often predictable, although as an homage to a bygone era of films, perhaps some of that clichéd predictability is intentional. Either way, the musical numbers and the visual storytelling keep the film interesting and fun to watch.

The usually flamboyant André Benjamin shows a different side with his quietly emotional Percival, the film’s narrator and emotional centre, while Patton deftly portrays both Rooster’s onstage grandstanding and his private turmoil. The supporting cast is excellent as well, especially Ving Rhames’s wise and kind bootlegger, Macy Gray’s drunken blues singer, Terrence Howard’s cold-blooded bad guy and Ben Vereen as Percival’s embittered mortician father. (Universal)