Review: Run The Jewels (RTJ)

 

If you’ve never heard of the New York duo Run The Jewels, there’s never been a better time to get acquainted. Consisting of rappers Killer Mike and El-P, the two delivered one of the most exhilarating albums of 2014 in the form of Run The Jewels 2, a blazing 40 minute rebellion and assault on established authority and institutions. Lauded by critics, a Grammy 2016 nomination for best Rap Album seems a full gone conclusion.

They’re latest single “Close your eyes (and count to fuck)” very much embodies the tonal aggression of the LP and the accompanying black and white visual serves as a welcome contribution to the on going conversation regarding America’s racial division and increasing tension between Police and black communities. Bruised and bloodied, with no prior indications of who instigated the conflict, a police officer and young black man wrestle tirelessly from the streets to the interior of an house. By the time they both give forfeit to hope of a personal victory they’re position in a bedroom, sat on opposing sides of the bed like a grieving couple. There’s something undeniably poetic about the last this scenario which opens and closes the piece. Director AG Rojas elaborates on the intent behind the video below:

“When Run The Jewels sent me this track, I knew we had the opportunity to create a film that means something. I felt a sense of responsibility to do just that. We had to exploit the lyrics and aggression and emotion of the track, and translate that into a film that would ignite a valuable and productive conversation about racially motivated violence in this country. It’s provocative, and we all knew this, so we were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity. For me, it was important to write a story that didn’t paint a simplistic portrait of the characters of the Cop and Kid. They’re not stereotypes. They’re people – complex, real people and, as such, the power had to shift between them at certain points throughout the story. The film begins and it feels like they have been fighting for days, they’re exhausted, not a single punch is thrown, their violence is communicated through clumsy, raw emotion. They’ve already fought their ways past their judgements and learned hatred toward one another. Our goal was to highlight the futility of the violence, not celebrate it.

I am really proud of where we ended up, and I am very thankful that our actors Shea Whigham and Keith Stanfield committed to these characters 100%. They breathed complex life into two people who are usually portrayed in simplistic ways – as archetypes. I can tell you it was an emotional shoot day. It is tough to re-create moments that are so fresh and prevalent in our world today. It affected all of us in deep ways. But I believe that it is important that the way we feel when we see these events in real life has an effect on us. That we resonate with what we know to be right and we don’t numb ourselves out so those feelings can simply be swept away, we must confront them and take some action, however small, or we’ll be stuck in the same cycle of violence and hate.”

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