Ill Gotten Gains

  • 1997
  • 1 HR 41 MIN
  • R
  • Drama, Historical

A 19th-century uprising on board a slave ship starring Djimon Hounsou, and it's not AMISTAD: What's up? This independent art movie, set 30 years later than Steven Spielberg's picture, contains conspicuously overlapping elements: It was even shot on the same modern-day reproduction of a 19th-century clipper. But while AMISTAD is a relatively straightforward...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

A 19th-century uprising on board a slave ship starring Djimon Hounsou, and it's not AMISTAD: What's up? This independent art movie, set 30 years later than Steven Spielberg's picture, contains conspicuously overlapping elements: It was even shot on the same

modern-day reproduction of a 19th-century clipper. But while AMISTAD is a relatively straightforward history lesson, this is a dark, haunting mood piece with an eerie supernatural edge. The year is 1869, and the slave ship Argon Miss is anchored off the West African coast with 24 captives

chained below decks. Slavery is illegal and British ships prowl the African waters, looking to intercept slave ships and charge the crews with piracy. The vulgar, brutal slave traders are waiting for their African accomplice to deliver 60 more men before embarking on the arduous voyage to the New

World, and are holding three of his wives (Akofuo Bufia, Claudia Robinson and Jamillah Nicole) as collateral. The atmosphere is charged with violence, and a spirit that lives within the ship's planks (voiced by Eartha Kitt) encourages the imprisoned men to rebel against their captors while the

African shore is still within sight. Writer-director Joel Ben Marsden's script puts contemporary words (many of them foul) into the mouths of his characters and stages most of the action within the claustrophobic confines of the ship: The film wasn't adapted from a play, but could easily be turned

into one. The Spirit of the Wood -- which manifests itself in peculiar, Quay Brothers-like animated figures -- adds a bizarrely haunting dimension to a drama that's otherwise firmly rooted in base but all-too-familiar human behavior. Thought-provoking and audaciously stylized, Marsden's feature

debut, which has been playing film festivals since February, is a fascinating companion piece to the far more lavish and conventional AMISTAD.

Watch This Now!

Your new favorite show is right here. Trust us.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A 19th-century uprising on board a slave ship starring Djimon Hounsou, and it's not AMISTAD: What's up? This independent art movie, set 30 years later than Steven Spielberg's picture, contains conspicuously overlapping elements: It was even shot on the sam… (more)

Show More »