What You Need To Know:
(AbAbAb, AcapAcap, C, Fe, LLL, VVV, SSS, NN, AA, DD, MMM) Very strong Anti-biblical worldview with strong anti-capitalist elements as prison director views and treats the female inmates as “animals,” while prison warden and the outside companies are the capitalists who are taking advantage of the women in the “prison plantation” although one character is religious and often quotes the Bible, but a feminist worldview is presented as most of the inmates were abused by men, leading them to commit crimes; extreme language, with more than 100 obscenities (mainly “F” words) and profanities; extremely graphic violence includes two rapes (woman bleeding afterwards), physical and sexual abuse, several beatings (often bloody), some graphic shootings and a stabbing; two rapes (one depicted and one implied) and some sexual references (including oral sex); man shown without his shirt on and two women are stripped to underclothing and left in a cell; characters shown drinking and a couple men who are obviously drunk abuse a woman; inmates shown smoking marijuana and inmate is offered a mind-altering drug; and, greedy corporations use inmates for cheap labor and inmates seek revenge on abusive caretakers.
CIVIL BRAND is a prison drama centered on the inmates of Whitehead Correctional Institute, including Frances (LisaRaye), a young mother and nurse sent to prison for killing her abusive husband. When she arrives on the “Block,” Frances is introduced to her fellow inmates, including Little Momma (Lark Voorhies), a pregnant 17-year old who killed her abusive stepfather, and Nikki Barnes (N’Bushe Wright), in for armed robbery. Fellow inmate Wet (Monica Calhoun) introduces Frances to life at Whitehead by stating “Welcome to the plantation, Sister Frances.” Frances comes to learn that the “plantation” is the workplace created by Warden Nelson (Reed McCants) that harvests human labor for profit. As the women work in abusive conditions for minimal pay, corporations and their caretakers are reaping the benefits of the women’s incarceration.
To make matters worse, the women are under the care of the horrifying and perverted Captain Dease (Clifton Powell). Dease wields his power in extreme ways, and often abuses the women sexually, verbally and physically. Dease’s corrections officers all ignore or participate in the gross offenses. The one exception is Michael (Mos Def), a recent college graduate and family friend of the warden who is new to the job. Michael senses that something is not right at the prison, and starts to investigate “prison as business.” In the meantime, the women are struggling for their survival and devise a plan to overthrow Captain Dease and Warden Nelson. Are they prepared for the sacrifices they will face, including their own lives?
CIVIL BRAND is obviously supposed to be a socio-political commentary set within the confines of a female prison. The film opens with fellow inmate Sabrina (DaBrat) narrating the women’s experiences and attempts for freedom. However, the excessive language and abuses cloud the moral that the filmmakers may have intended. The abuses are so difficult to watch that this reviewer wanted the movie to finish halfway through. The production and script of the movie are sub-par, with the filmmakers often being reduced to bright flashes, editing tricks, and foul language to move the movie along. The movie also suffers from casting novice actors, such as rappers DaBrat and MC Lyte, and LisaRaye. Overall, the movie leaves a bad taste in your mouth, because it is devoid of redemption and any edifying elements. CIVIL BRAND is a movie that audiencs will want to forget as soon as they leave the theatre.
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Tom Ortenberg, President
Lions Gate FIlms
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SUMMARY: CIVIL BRAND is an excessively violent, obscene prison drama centered on the inmates of Whitehead Correctional Institute, including Frances, Little Momma, Wet, and Nikki Barnes. The women must band together to fight the “new plantation” at the prison where human labor is used for profit.