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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fences 2016 * * * 1/2 Stars

FencesDirector: Denzel Washington
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley, Mykelti Williamson

Fences is my latest review. It is based on a play and at times, it feels as such. Fences is a talky picture, made somewhat for the stage with its extended group scenes and singular moments of standoff violence. Don't shy away though. This is still powerful stuff, with timed acting of the highest order.

Denzel Washington stars, produces, and directs. His setting is 1950's Pittsburgh. With a Christmas Day release and Washington playing opposite an actress like Viola Davis, you can almost smell the Academy Award nominations coming around the corner. You can also taste the Iron City Beer as well as the bottle of slow gin that Denzel's main character (Troy Maxon) drinks on a regular basis.

Image result for fences 2016 movie poster
Washington works with about five locations in Fences such as the Maxon family home, the street said home is on, and a local bar. His direction is simplistically brilliant as he captures such an authentic sense of time and place. His cast (including himself) is saddled with heavy-handed dialogue that deems itself metaphoric in regards to race and the sport of baseball. Possessing gray stubble and a little extra weight put on, Denzel Washington gives maybe his best performance ever in the claustrophobic-like setting that Fences inhabits. He spits his lines like a pellet gun .177. His Maxon is a supporting father and shucked bastard all at the same time. Heck, Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. is flat out ferocious.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures and containing a script adapted from famed playwright, August Wilson (it was completed right before his passing in 2005), Fences follows waste collector/promoted garbage driver, Troy Maxon (Washington). In his early days, Maxon was a Negro league baseball player. Even before that, he was a convicted murderer and robber who served some considerable time. Now Troy comes home from work to pal around with his best friend (Jim Bono played by Stephen Henderson), drink hard liquor, and reminisce about cheating pneumonia-related death as a youth.

Image result for fences movie scenesWatching Fences at a Tuesday screening, I wasn't sure how long the time frame was. There is an elongated flash-forward progression toward its conclusion. Otherwise, most of the events in Fences could have taken place anywhere between 1-2 years. Its screenplay by the late August Wilson, recycles itself over and over again throughout the duration of Fences (139 minutes). It still regains its freshness with scenes that crackle and captivate. There's conflict in this vehicle between father and son, father and estranged son, husband and wife, and friend to friend. The backyard baseball (on a rope) in Fences acts as a symbol. It's a reminder of better times and simpler times for the volatile Troy.

In conclusion, I'm hoping that when the dust settles and the end of January rolls around, Fences will garner Oscar consideration for Washington (Best Actor), Davis (Best Actress), and even Mykelti Williamson (Best Supporting Actor) as Maxon's mentally impaired brother. Overall, Fences builds its own "fence" around almost everything that came out in 2016. It's a real winner. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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