Cinematic Releases: Destined (2017) - Reviewed

One of the best things about human beings is our ability to control our destiny, our fate. Socioeconomic conditions are a huge factor, but if we are willing to make even an inch of change, our destiny can be altered, the central thesis of Qasim Basir’s latest film, Destined. 

Set in Detroit, Mr. Basir uses two parallel stories to reflect two paths in life. The first is Rasheed, a successful architect who is caught up in city politics as he tries to better life for those who are still living in the projects, where he grew up. The second is Sheed, a drug kingpin who has spent most of his adult life building his drug empire. Both characters are played by Cory Hardrict, who won the Grand Jury Prize for his performance at the American Black Film Festival last year. 

Rasheed has a strong network of friends and supporters as he struggles up the corporate ladder. Jesse Metcalfe plays Dylan Holder, an executive with the architect firm Rasheed works for. Robert Christopher Riley plays Calvin, a friend from the projects and a key figure in the mayor’s office. Paula Devic plays Rasheed’s mom, April. Margot Bingham plays Maya, the object of Rasheed’s desires. Curtiss Cook plays Mr. Davis, the head of the center where Rasheed grew up. 

In Sheed’s world, Mr. Metcalfe plays Officer Holder, who tries to bring down Sheed’s drug empire. Mr. Riley plays Cal, Sheed’s second-in-command. Neither Mr. Metcalfe’s nor Mr. Riley’s performances varied between each world; they were mirror images in terms of how the characters were used to alter the various paths Rasheed/Sheed go down. Ms. Devic plays her character in Sheed’s world as a strung-out junkie as does Mr. Davis, which makes the implications of their relationship to Sheed more dynamic. 

Since the character dynamics parallel each other, Mr. Basir and his cinematographer, Carmen Cabana used two different filters to demonstrate the parallel stories, blue for Rasheed’s struggles up the corporate ladder and a ruddy color for Sheed’s life on the streets. 

Even though the story runs a lean 1 hour, 35 minutes, Mr. Basir’s script focused the character dynamics on the secondary characters, namely Mr. Metcalfe’s Holder, Mr. Riley’s Calvin and Mr. Cook’s Mr. Davis. All three characters have functions in each of the stories, but their implications got lost because they felt too similar, lessening the impact of Rasheed’s/Sheed’s journey; this is not the fault of the performances, but a technical issue with the camera filters and the frenetic editing. These are stylistic choices, but they became so daunting. 

In the end, both characters take a stand for something bigger than they were. In this context, Mr. Basir’s film works. Perhaps this is the point, but the story might have been better served if several of the secondary characters weren’t the central focus. 

Share this review.

-Ben Cahlamer