First and foremost, it’s hard to to address the posthumous presence of Chadwick Boseman as the long-departed leader of the titular Bloods — a young man taken well before his time.
The choice to have him remain the only youthful member of the cast makes his ghost loom large, since the remaining cast are all portrayed by their older selves in all the flashbacks to the Vietnam/American War.
Which is not to say he overshadows things at all. The other four Bloods all put in great performances. I’ll always appreciate the absurdly charismatic Clarke Peters (THE WIRE/TREMÉ) being put front and centre, and Delroy Lindo drops a showstopper of a performance.
Turns out, returning to Vietnam decades after the war to retreive buried gold has the consequence of dragging up old traumas. Whodathunk?
Scattered throughout are horrifying archival clips and stills, as well as Spike Lee’s own personally curated lessons in Black History around the men who went to war to prove they were true citizens of the United States only to find themselves used up and discarded.
It’s long one, almost two whole films of runtime split fairly neatly either side of the recovery of the gold at the unmarked grave of their former troop leader (Boseman). The pacing can feel bogged down in places even when it feels like a condensed version of an even more sprawling, structurally novelistic tale. This would make for a fantastic book — to the point where I had to keep checking if it was actually based on something (it’s not, other than true accounts of the war Lee researched while making it).
None of that is to be taken as complaint, mind. It’s a frequently uncomfortable look at the consequence of a war decades on, and of the lasting bonds that linger long after everyone has gone home, learned to live with their nightmares and become old.