A low-budget spitball of militant black grandstanding and Brit dystopian grunge, “Welcome II the Terrordome” plops way short of its target thanks to inept scripting and often clumsy performances. This angry first feature by British-Nigerian director Ngozi Onwurah looks consigned to highly specialized dates, though helmer could progress to more interesting work if she finds a stronger producer and better material.
Pic was made on a shoestring over three years as production coin became available. Given the circumstances, it’s technically OK; any but the already converted, however, will tune out early on from therelentlessly misanthropic tone and unmodulated, race-conflict cliches. There’s a curiously old-fashioned feel to its simplistic, idealized stance that vaguely recalls angry early-’70s works like Melvin Van Peebles'”Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.”
Opening is based on a true incident in 1652 North Carolina when an African Ibo family walked to their death in the sea to escape slavery. Movie then projects the characters into the near future, holed up in a ghetto-cum-barrio nicknamed the Terrordome, where life is cheap and racist white cops conduct a ruthless war with rival gangs of drug dealers.
Tone is relentlessly bleak, with no concessions even to a thriller format. A central cross-racial love affair between black gang leader Spike (Valentine Nonyela) and a pregnant white woman (model Saffron Burrows) ends hopelessly, as she aborts her fetus after being beaten up by her white ex-lover (Jason Traynor).
When the wife (Suzzette Llewellyn) of Spike’s relative Black Rad (Felix Joseph) is executed after going on a shooting spree, Black Rad storms a TV channel and announces his black power manifesto.
On paper, the pic is inflammatory stuff, but its cumulative effect is more soporific. Characters are one-dimensional mouthpieces, the dialogue seemingly pasted together from hip, U.S.-influenced cliches, and Onwurah’s visual language largely conservative and immobile. Performances border on the amateur.
Title comes from a number by rap act Public Enemy, and the soundtrack bristles with black funk.