Blackout [1988]

Set in the summer of 2003 when parts of America experienced a severe power outage, Blackout focuses on the eclectic residents of a New York neighborhood who fought--and banded together--to survive the ordeal. The 95-minute film focuses on the residents of a rundown apartment building, all of whom have issues that are exacerbated by the summer's sweltering heat. A lot happens in this movie, and that is also part of its downfall. There isn't enough time to get to know or care about all the tenants. And what viewers do discover just leads to more questions. Claudine (Zoe Saldana) and James (Sean Blakemore), have some issues to work through in their relationship, but it's unclear why they are living where they are when they could afford a nicer place in a different borough of New York. He has been unemployed since 9/11, but she appears to have a big-income job in Manhattan that could easily support them both. Their landlord Sol (Saul Rubinek) is the stereotypical greedy slumlord, while the building's maintenance man George (Melvin Van Peebles) is depicted in a saintly light. George is willing not only to forgive his backstabbing employer, but also offer him refuge when the blackout hits. The vignettes featuring C.J. (Michael B. Jordan), a young man with ambitions and dreams of a better life, hold the most promise, but end abruptly. Though there is some good acting by the actors playing the central characters, there isn't enough suspense or drama to sustain interest. With its melodramatic made-for-TV vibe, Blackout sells itself short by trying to accomplish too much in too little time. --Jae-Ha Kim

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