MESSENGER has a message to deliver, and it does so with all the drama of mail service. This noble-minded movie is a needless remake of the neo-realist classic THE BICYCLE THIEF, set in New York with an African-American cast.
Jeff Rogers (Richard Barbosa) is trying to go straight after a history of unspecified criminal activity. He already has one child, and his wife Tina (Carolyn Kinebrew) is pregnant with their second. Jeff lands a job as a bicycle messenger, but doesn't have a bike, so Tina pawns her wedding ring
for the money to buy one. On Jeff's first day at work, the bike gets stolen. He and Tina figure the thief will show up in Central Park on Saturday, either riding or selling the bike, so they go there intent on catching him. The search seems hopeless, and the couple take their frustrations out on
each other. Finally, miraculously, Jeff spots the thief. They track him to his home, but by then the bike is long gone, and Jeff gets beaten up for his trouble. (Director Loftis plays the cop who intercedes on Jeff's behalf.) Desperate, Jeff angrily sends Tina away and attempts to steal a bike. He
fails. Tina then goes into labor and, as they ride away in an ambulance, they vow to stay together and persevere.
It's no surprise that MESSENGER suffers in comparison to THE BICYCLE THIEF, but the remake is weaker than it needed to be. Wherever producer, writer, and director Norman Loftis (SMALL TIME) has changed the story, the result is for the worse. In the BICYCLE THIEF, the bike represents the sole means
of support for an impoverished family; its loss is genuinely devastating. Here, the bike is little more than a plot device, providing Jeff and Tina an excuse to spend a day in the park (where they roller-skate and eat Belgian waffles). Moreover, the movie's logical and moral parameters are
undermined by an early scene in which Jeff gets into an argument in a club, pulls a gun, and has to be restrained from killing the man. Are we then to believe that stealing a bike poses an ethical dilemma for him?
The film awkwardly hammers home its central point: that young black men need to stay alive, stay out of prison, and stay home if they are to become strong husbands and fathers. Benevolent patriarchy, Loftis implies, is a necessary condition for the improvement of the African-American community. If
this was the message of 1995's Million Man March on Washington, it is also a cherished belief of those whites who like to believe that black men are responsible for their own predicament. (Extreme profanity, violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: MESSENGER has a message to deliver, and it does so with all the drama of mail service. This noble-minded movie is a needless remake of the neo-realist classic THE BICYCLE THIEF, set in New York with an African-American cast. Jeff Rogers (Richard Barbosa)… (more)