“Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day” is crammed with enough melodramatic incident for three movies, all of them seemingly scripted by Tyler Perry in a very foul mood. This hysterically overwrought soul sister to “Woman Thou Art Loosed” slaps that 2004 pic’s title on the lurid tale of an abducted child, a mother with a shameful secret and a fire-and-brimstone-spewing serial killer, all in service of a dubiously therapeutic tribute to ravaged-but-resilient black femininity. Target audiences may see it, but they probably will not see that it is good.
Louisiana gal Kari Ames (Sharon Leal) is happily married to handsome professor David (Blair Underwood), with whom she has a young daughter, Mikayla (Zoe Carter). Yet there are portents of looming disaster, and when tragedy strikes, it does not strike subtly. There’s a kidnapper on the loose, and soon Mikayla is taken, an incident dramatized with ominous music, a flurry of jump cuts and the sudden leaching of color from d.p. Keith Smith’s Red-camera lensing. It’s as if the movie had been momentarily possessed by “The Exorcist.”
In the ensuing police investigation, it comes to light that Kari used to be a violent, thieving crack whore, a revelation that sends the Ames’ marriage into a tailspin: “All this time I’ve been living with a stranger,” David murmurs helpfully. Further fanning the flames of marital discord, a cop (Nicoye Banks) assigned to the case turns out to be an ex of Kari’s, while David seems to take an extracurricular interest in his teaching assistant (Nicole Beharie).
Living up to its biblically inflated title, Cory Tynan’s screenplay is structured over seven days, none of which pass especially quickly under Neema Barnette’s alternately frenzied and draggy direction. There are frequent cutaways to the kidnapper (Patrick Weathers), a leering psychopath who recites Scripture and wears a bowtie. There are interludes of David wandering the streets of New Orleans, briefly and rather misguidedly turning the pic into a post-Katrina lament.
On a happier note, Pam Grier turns up as a tough-mama detective who’s not afraid to mete out punishment to the pimps, layabouts and other assorted lowlifes who cross her path; it’s a boisterous, incongruously entertaining turn that suggests a singular understanding of the material’s comic potential. Woman thou art loosed, indeed.
Leal gives a full-throttle diva display of maternal anguish, wifely resentment and (in one flashback) crack-whore attitude, and she doesn’t disappoint, whether her character is hitting the bottle or lashing out at David for suddenly treating her like a piece of rough trade. It’s enough to send anyone running to the nearest church, which is where Kari receives some much-needed if dramatically perfunctory advice on how to tame her demons.
Speaking of which, T.D. Jakes, the bishop and televangelist who had a prominent role in the first “Woman Thou Art Loosed” (adapted from his novel and play), is much less visible this time around, though he is credited as one of eight exec producers. Underwood, who fares as well as anyone in the ensemble, also handled second-unit helming chores.