American Skin: Nate Parker’s Crude and Simplistic Agit-Prop, Follow-Up to Birth of a Nation

The discredited director of the one-time promising indie, The Birth of a Nation, returns with American Skin, a raw, crude story of a black janitor fighting back against police brutality and injustice.

Grade: C (*1/2* out of *****)

Nate Parker in American Skin.

Nate Parker’s 2016 debut, The Birth of a Nation, which screened at Sundance and was nabbed by Fox Searchlight for a record-breaking sum. Big things were predicted for the actor-director. But the resurfacing of a 1999 college rape trial (in which he was eventually acquitted), together with his own defiant public stance on the issue made Parker a pariah.

Ostensibly American Skin is a drama about police brutality in black communities, a serious subject that merits serious attention.

The handling is flat, paying laborious lip-service to both sides of the debate, while an over-insistent score emphasizes the really important lines of dialogue.  No one in real life speaks the way they do in this film.

The drama is crudely ordered, with its predictable twists and turns and conveniently-placed confessions, all building to sort of a primitively simplistic plea for racial tolerance.

Inside the police department, the jury deliberate, and the case is so all-consuming, that it’s testing their reserves.

“It’s not plain, and it’s not simple,” a white juror says about the case, whereas the movie is just that.