Tribeca Film Festival 2023- “Cinnamon

This year’s Tribeca festival was a good one. It saddens me to have to wrap it up with what will certainly go down as one of the worst films of the year, Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.’s “Cinnamon”, a film that really wants to be hip and wild and fun but exists as just another thankless pastiche of better films.

Hailey Kilgore stars as Jodi, a small-town gas station attendant who wants to be a singer. After a robbery at her place of work ends in a shooting death, Jodi and her street criminal boyfriend Eddie (David Iacono) find themselves in danger with a crooked crime family, led by Pam Grier.

Montgomery Jr. begins the film with a Blaxploitation aura yet drops that approach immediately. The director then goes with a small-town thriller vibe, quickly dispersing with that one as well. In the first half hour, his screenplay tries for dark comedy, eventually throwing that out completely.

The picture’s “style” is all over the place and never finds a consistent tone.

As the film’s plot is set into motion, writer/director Bryian Keith Montgomery, Jr. gives his film too much to carry. We follow Jodi’s slimy and very crooked boss (Damon Wayans), his ditzy girlfriend Heather (Lauren Buglioli), and how they have been screwing over their partners (Pam Grier, Jeremie Harris, and Jay DeVon Johnson).

Once the connection is made between the robbery and the criminal family, the cliches explode, littering the screen with rip-off moments from better motion pictures.

I dislike it when modern crime films are referred to as “Tarantino-esque”, but in the case of “Cinnamon”, Montgomery Jr. rips off the director in more than a few instances.

It is obvious the filmmaker wants his movie to have the type of skilled vibe Tarantino so effortlessly achieves. Montgomery Jr.’s characters have long scenes of dialogue that struggle for profundity. The film’s bursts of violence come hard and fast but have no impact. The many twists and turns are neither fun nor clever.

By the time the film gets to its violent conclusion, when every character’s fate crosses paths, it all becomes an eye-rolling mess.

In the final moment, the director reaches for something emotional and ends up with an embarrassing display of pathos that has the depth of a 1980s sitcom “special episode”.

This is all too bad, as the film’s cast is very good.

Kilgore shows real talent, Damon Wayans finds a nice balance of humor and sad sack seriousness, and Jay DeVon Johnson proves to be a good character actor.

The wasting of the great Pam Grier is a true shame. As the head of the picture’s crime family, the screenplay gives the actress nothing to do beyond her menacing looks. There is an attempt to make Grier’s character unique by having her be deaf, but again, the film fails to do anything interesting with it.

When you are lucky enough to have a legend such as Pam Grier agree to be a part of your film, punch up the role. An actor’s presence means nothing without a canvas for them to create.

I was looking forward to seeing Bryian Kieth Montgomery Jr’s film. The cast looked good, the plot sounded fun, and today’s cinema needs more films from Black filmmakers.

Sadly, “Cinnamon” exists as an unoriginal and uninvolving crime thriller,  Every moment is riddled with a “been there done that” vibe that completely buries it.



Written & Directed by Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.

Starring Hailey Kilgore, David Iacono, Damon Wayans, Pam Grier

NR, 91 Minutes, Village Roadshow Entertaiment Group/Tubi Originals