STAR Wars creator George Lucas devoted 23 years and $58m from his own pocket to bring to mainstream cinema the inspiring story of the squadron of black pilots who played a significant part in the Second World War.
Unfortunately, Red Tails (Cert 12A) does not do justice to these good intentions and is undone by a cliché-ridden plot, one-dimenisonal characters and some clunky dialogue though it is strong on spectacular aerial action.
Set in Italy in 1944 it follows the Tuskegee airmen (called after the air base in Alabama where they trained and subsequently nicknamed red tails because of the markings on their planes) as they overcome racial discrimination from the Pentagon top brass to take to the skies and perform daring exploits which helped win the war.
Directed by Anthony Hemingway, the aerial dogfights are spectacular and exciting although so obviously CGI but what isn’t these days? It’s on the ground that things go rather flat with a collection of characters we have met in dozens of other movies. It centres on the conflict between the squadron’s captain, Easy, who insists on sticking to the rules (apart from his own secret drinking problem, and maverick ace Lightning (Davie Oyelowo) who flouts orders and is so charismatic he woos local beauty (Daniela Ruah) despite not knowing a word of Italian.
Cuba Gooding Jr and Terrence Howard are commanding officers and another familiar face is Andre Royo (Bubbles in The Wire) as chief mechanic in a film which you feel only really skims the surface of what is surely a fascinating and much more complex story.
Ben Drew aka rapper Plan B makes an impressive directoral debut with the gritty Ill Manors (Cert 15) which follows the grim lives of six desperate Londoners. Drug dealer Ed (Ed Skrein) is caught in a police sting and quickly offloads incriminating evidence to associate Aaron (Riz Ahmed). While Aaron waits for Ed’s release from custody, he crosses paths with illegal immigrant Katya (Natalie Press), who has been sold into sex trafficking and must make a stark decision about the future of her newborn child.
Aaron also encounters junkie Michelle (Anouska Mond), who stumbles down a sickening and destructive path in search of her next hit. Elsewhere, schoolboy Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) attempts to blag some gear from gang leader Marcel (Nick Sagar), but acceptance comes at a price. Former dealer Kirby (Keith Coggins) tries to re-assimilate into a world that dragged him down 15 years ago. Meanwhile, emotionally volatile dealer Chris (Lee Allen) loses his cool when his younger sister is caught in the crossfire of a revenge shooting.