2014 Written by Teena Booth and Robert Nathan
Directed by Stanley M. Brooks
Lifetime puts out a lot of ridiculous crap as original movies, expertly giving the world scandal-fueled exploitative drama for close to 25 years. But occasionally, they turn out something decent, something that tells a story that should be told and that covers a host of class and racial issues that aren’t talked about much on television. One thing I have noticed is Lifetime has been increasing the amount of African-American based television movies, though for the most part those are largely all-black casts. The target demographic is welcome, because it’s ignored far too often by far too many. The Grim Sleeper features a mix of white and black stars, because the (true) story covered involved people both white and black.
In 2008, it became apparent that a serial killer had been preying on women in the LA area. The victims were almost exclusively black women, shot, raped, and dumped in abandoned alleys. A journalist named Christine Pelisek helped piece together that the man was out there, and through her work also discovered links dating back to the 1980s. It soon became apparent that the police knew about the slayings, and the murders dating back decades, and weren’t planning on informing the community of what was going on.
Pelisek said “screw that!” and soon it was a headline feature in the LA Weekly (you can read the original article here, and read the interview with the only known survivor here.) The community was less than impressed that the LAPD had chosen to keep this under wraps, and drama happened.
The Grim Sleeper fictionalizes lead up to the publication of the story and the eventual arrest of the alleged suspect (who has yet to go to trial!), but many events are based on fact. Several of the characters are closely based on real victims, Christine Pelisek is a real person, and the true-life aspect helps give the story the grounding to be more effective.
Christine Pelisek (Dreama Walker) – Bright-eyed young newspaper fact-checker at the LA Weekly who stumbles upon the story of a lifetime and helps alert a community to a dangerous presence. A strong willed investigator who won’t rest until she’s figured out the truth.
Margette (Macy Gray) – Survivor of an attack by the mysterious killer later dubbed the Grim Sleeper, Margette and Christine spend lots of time together as Margette tries to help the investigation by locating a house the killer stopped at.
Detective Bill Simms (Michael O’Neill) – Lead detective on the murder cases and the guy who puts together the link to the old unsolved cases. Wants to keep this under wraps so the killer doesn’t disappear again. Faces a lot of flack for what turns out to be a wrong decision. Doesn’t like Christine butting in on his investigation, but begins to learn to work with her.
Melayna Jefferson (Dinora Walcott) – Adoptive sister of one of the victims, she feels guilt because she left her sister out in the streets when she had attitude and that was the last she saw of her. Becomes one of the leading members of the relatives and a friend of Christine.
Jasper Morales (Brendan Fletcher) – Worker at the city morgue, whose list of unsolved murder cases helps put Christine on the road to her discovery. Is crushing on her, but Christine is too focused on journalism to have time for anything.
Detective Gerry Claymar (Ernie Hudson) – Detective Claymar shows up about halfway through the film (just as Jasper disappears from the film) and helps balance out the police parts of the story. Despite Ernie Hudson doing his best, this role is the weakest of the major characters just because there isn’t enough time left to give him his due.
Dragonball is a famous manga and anime series from Japan that has fans all over the world. I am not one of those fans so I don’t give a crap how they deviated from the source material. If you just want to read a review that complains about that stuff, then I am sorry, this is not the review for you. If you want to read a review that complains about other stupid stuff and yet still gives the film a fairly positive review, then you have hit the jackpot. Also, there is a monkeyman in this movie, and a CGI dragon. Just saying.
Dragonball the anime is about some dudes who spend 99% of the show charging up for the 1% where they fight and someone gets blasted only for them to fight next week after more charging up. It is the most popular show that has ever existed in the world. The movie decided to ignore the charging up and instead do some sort of “Find the Dragonballs!” plot. Fine with me. The film then basically becomes a low-rent Star Wars ripoff, or at least that same stupid farmboy mythology that everyone does. Sure, that legend has been around forever and Star Wars is known for borrowing elements wholesale from other myths itself, but all of those stories now just end up being compared to Star Wars, like it or not.
And where were the fistcams we were told about? I don’t remember any fistcams in the film. Maybe they realized it looked stupid.
Justin Chatwin does a good job with the normal teenager parts, but the sections where he is vowing revenge, questioning people about stuff in the dragonball mythology, or calling upon dragons to resurrect his master all come off as very badly acted. He just isn’t a good genre actor at this point, but he would be find chatting up some girl on 90210 or something.
Goku (Justin Chatwin) – Goku is the grandson of Master Gohan and your average American teenager who has a martial artist grandfather and is the heir guardian of a mysterious Dragonball that is sought by evil warlords. And he is secretly an evil monkey. Justin Chatwin is the annoyingly not-killed son from War of the Worlds. Here, he is less annoying.
Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) – Master Gohan’s friend and mentor to Goku. Master Roshi is a creepy dude who enjoys some good porn and robots and being a slob. But he cleans up his act to teach Goku. You should know who Chow Yun-Fat is so I am not going to explain it.
Bulma Briefs (Emmy Rossum) – Bulma wants to use her father’s dragonball to develop a new energy source, but the dragonball is stolen by Mai and Bulma runs into Goku while tracking it down. Bulma Briefs was named by a guy, in case you were wondering. Emmy Rossum is enjoyable and graduated high school at age 15.
Chi Chi (Jamie Chung) – Chi Chi is not only a celebration of food, but is Goku’s love interest. She is a secret fighter and also a child of a super rich family and her parents are never around. Jamie Chung likes being on reality shows and drinking and driving. My wife was friends with her sister so that makes me totally famous! And we got cheesecake pics!
Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) – Lord Piccolo was trapped for 2000 years or some crap when he and a monkey failed to steal all the dragonballs long ago. They never mention how he escaped, nor how he got his zeppelin. Zeppelins are cool. Piccolo is green. James Marsters was on Buffy, but I don’t watch Buffy.
Yamcha (Joon Park) – Yamcha just shows up in the middle of the film as a semi-criminal guy who joins our heroes in chasing balls. Joon Park was a member of the music group g.o.d. in Korea.
Mai (Eriko Tamura) – Mai is Piccolo’s servent who just steals all these dragonballs and does other stuff while barely saying anything and looking like Bai Ling should have played the role. Eriko Tamura was in Heroes and the great film Surf School.