Starring: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Jonathan Majors, Jasper Pääkkönen, Jean Reno, Paul Walter Hauser
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Netflix’s war drama directed and co-written by Spike Lee. The story follows four African American veterans, Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), who return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen Squad Leader, Norman (Chadwick Boseman), as well as the buried treasure they found during the Vietnam War. These heroes battle forces of humanity and nature while confronted by the lasting ravages of the war.
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[after they meet up at the hotel in Vietnam] Eddie: Yeah, brother man, we are back. Melvin: The Bloods is back! Paul: Five Bloods don’t die, we just multiply! Eddie: Yeah, yeah! Otis: Soon to be five. All: Amen.
Melvin: I got thug-a** hardheads moving into my hood. Now Cissy wants to move out. Paul: You got a piece for protection? Melvin: Yeah, I got a piece for protection. I got a side piece. I got Smith on one side and Wesson on the other.
[to Paul, Eddie, Otis, and Melvin] Vinh Tran: Gentlemen, welcome back to Vietnam.
[during Vietnam; after the five friends find the box full of gold bars] Paul: Out of sight! Melvin: Great googly-moogly. Stormin’ Norman: You know what this means? We gold standard. We gold standard.
[as Vinh is giving them a tour of the city] Eddie: They didn’t need us. They should’ve just sent Mickey D’s, Pizza Hut, and The Colonel, and we would have defeated the VC in one week. Finger-licking good.
Eddie: All them Holly-weird m*therf***ers trying to go back and win the Vietnam War. Otis: Yeah. I would be the first cat in line if there was a flick about a real hero. You know, one of our blood. Somebody like Milton Olive. Eddie: Yeah, that man jumped on that grenade and saved his Bloods lives. Otis: And he was the first brother to be awarded the Medal of Honor in Nam. Eighteen years-old. Melvin: Hey, look, I love y’all, and all that bulls**t, but I ain’t doing that. Paul: Man, nobody want you to die for them. Melvin: Because I ain’t. Like Aretha sang, You better think.
[after meeting Tiên’s daughter, Michon] Otis: Is that our daughter? Our… Tiên Luu: Yes, she is. She was a bastard child of the enemy. I was a whore. Her father was a moi, the n*****. The white GI taught us that word. Everyone want us out. We was too dirty to even clean the toilet. They call our beautiful Michon the cockroach.
[after Desroche questions them as to how they know about the gold] Melvin: We ain’t no international criminals, you dig? Desroche: In my line of work, I have to be very careful, and that means knowing exactly who I am in business with. Paul: This cat getting on my last goddamn nerve, man. Desroche: Gentlemen, I believe our business is finished.
Paul: Where were Frenchies in World War II? Hitler had y’all by the snails. The goddamn US of A saved your a**es. If it wasn’t for good ol’ Uncle Sam, all of yous, y’all be speaking the Deutsche, eating bratwurst, schnitzels, and sauerkraut instead of croissants, snails, and escargot. Otis: Come on, Blood. Let it go. Paul: No, man. No. Otis: Just let it go! Paul: No, f*** that. I ain’t done. This m*therf***er can’t tell me s**t. My daddy, God rest his soul, landed in Normandy and killed beaucoup goose-stepping N**is. Let me tell you something, them N**is weren’t no punks neither. Not like you. Yeah, okay, I’m done. Otis: You feel better? Paul: Yeah. Desroche: Well, I thank you for this ignorant American one-sided version of World War II.
[during Vietnam; after they find the box full of gold bars] Stormin’ Norman: We bury it. For now. They ask, we say the VC got it. Later on, we come back and collect. Melvin: You mean rip it off. Stormin’ Norman: We ain’t ripping off s**t! Who feel like they’re ripping something off? We was the very first people that died for this red, white, and blue! Yeah, that’s right. It was a soul brother, Crispus Attucks at the m*therf***ing Boston Massacre. We’ve been dying for this country from the very get, hoping one day they’d give us our rightful place. All they give us was a foot up our black a**es. Well, f*** that! I say the USA owe us. We built this b**ch!
Otis: So, what you saying, Blood? Stormin’ Norman: I’m saying, we repossess this gold, like they about to come repossess your cash yield convertible now. We repossess this gold for every single black boot that never made it home. Every brother and sister stolen from Mother Africa to Jamestown, Virginia way back in 1619. We give this gold to our people. You feel that? You feel it? Now, let’s bury our gold. Paul: Reparations. Stormin’ Norman: Bloods.
Paul: How do I know that you two ain’t a con artist team? Desroche: As you said, you simply must trust us.
Desroche: [to Paul] And, sir, Uncle Sam did no better than France in Vietnam.
[after Paul finds that his son David has followed him to Vietnam] David: You’re here for the gold. Don’t lie. You’re going after the gold. I read Otis’s emails. You got to choose better passwords. “1-2-3-4”? Come on now, dad.
Paul: What do you want, David? David: An equal share for helping you find it. Paul: Hell to the no!
David: The authorities find out about this, y’all go back to the crib empty-handed. Paul: So you just a lil’ jive-a** gangster now, huh? David: After everything you’ve put me through, I’d say you getting a basement bargain. Paul: You ungrateful lil’ Black Studies teacher n*****. You want to tell your Bloods, or should I?
[referring to David] Eddie: You sure know how to raise them, don’t you? Melvin: What happens if we bum-rush your boy and throw his a** off that balcony? David: Just know I’m taking a couple of you OGs with me. Paul: Don’t ever threaten my son, man. Melvin: Or what? Paul: Or you will nab more trouble than you know what to do with.
Otis: David, you are not getting a full share. You and your daddy can split a share. Paul: You can forget that. Otis: You take it or leave it. [to David as the mango on his plate then falls to the floor] Paul: You see what you made me do, man? Let me tell you something. You ain’t been nothing but an anchor around my neck since the day you were born. Yeah, I said it. And I mean it too.
Otis: David, you’re a buck private in this outfit. You do what we say, when we say it. No questions asked. Understood? David: Overstood, Godfather.
[as they’re setting off to find the buried gold] Tiên Luu: I have bad feeling about this, Otis. Otis: I’m going to be alright. Tiên Luu: Gold does strange things to people. Even old friends. Be safe. [she then hands him a newspaper concealing a gun] Otis: Alright. Yeah. I just hope I don’t have to use it.
Otis: Your pops was never the same after we lost Norman. David: You know, he calls his name in his sleep. Otis: I can believe that. David: Who was that guy? Otis: Norm? That brother was the best damn soldier that ever lived.
Otis: Wasn’t many brothers who made squad leader. The man was using Bloods for cannon fodder. White boys who stayed in college, they’d dodge that s**t. They put our poor black a**es on the front line, killing us off like flies. Stormin’ earned his name, was in all kind of firefights. Trained us in the way of the jungle. Made us believe that we would get home, alive.
Stormin’ Norman: War is about money. Money is about war. Every time I walk out my front door, I see cops patrolling my neighborhood, like it’s some police state. I can feel just how much I ain’t worth.
[referring to Norman] Otis: Gave us something to believe in. A direction, a purpose. He taught us about black history when it wasn’t really popular back then. Schooled us about drinking that anti-commie Kool-Aid they was selling. Yeah, he was our Malcolm, and our Martin. Norm had a way of keeping us from going off. He wasn’t no Tom. He was a bad mother, shut your mouth. Like Ali.
[at Radio Hanoi] Hanoi Hannah: Black GI, in Memphis, Tennessee, a white man assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King who heroically opposed the cruel racial discrimination in the USA. Dr. King also opposed the US war in Vietnam. Black GI, your government sent six hundred thousand troops to crush the rebellion. Your soul sister and soul brothers are enraged in over a hundred twenty-two cities. They kill them while you fight against us, so far away from where you are needed.
[at Radio Hanoi] Hanoi Hannah: Black GI, the South Vietnamese people are resolute against these fascist acts against N****es who struggle for civil rights and freedom. N****es are only eleven percent of the US population, but among troops here in Vietnam, you are thirty-two percent. Black GI, is it fair to serve more than the white Americans that sent you here? Nothing is more confused than to be ordered into a war to die, or to be maimed for life, without the faintest idea of what’s going on. I dedicate this next record to the soul brothers of the 1st Infantry Divisions. Big Red One, 2nd Battalion, 136th Regiment. Have a good day, gentlemen. Be safe.
Melvin: The Bible says an eye for an eye. Eddie: And a tooth for a tooth. Otis: We need to kill some crackers. Paul: Our brothers and sisters are burning s**t down back home, Norm. I love you, man, but you’re wrong. Dead wrong! Stormin’ Norman: You’re talking about Dr. King. You’re talking about a man of peace. Paul: And that’s what got Dr. King killed.
Stormin’ Norman: I’m as mad as everybody. All us Bloods got a right to be, but we Bloods. We won’t let nobody use our rage against us. We control our rage. Now, what y’all are trying to do right now ain’t changing s**t. So, stand down. That’s an order! Paul: No! F*** an order, Norm! Stormin’ Norman: You’re going to have to kill me first. Blood on Blood.
Otis: [to David] And let me tell you, out of all of us, your pops was closest to him. Believed in Norman like a religion. I don’t think he believed in anything since.
Paul: I see ghosts, y’all. I see ghosts. Eddie: Well, it happens to all of us, man! Paul: You seen them too? Eddie: Yeah. Paul: Dead come to you at night? Huh? Stormin’ Norm comes to me damn near every night. Now, he talk to y’all like he talk to me? Otis: Brother, come on. Paul: I don’t think so.
[after David meets Hedy at a hotel bar and reveals she’s the founder of LAMB] Hedy: I must look like some Patty Hearst heiress who’s cast herself as a guilt-ridden bourgeoisie cliché. David: Hey, look, I know all about bourgeoisie clichés. I’m a poverty-stricken fool who loves teaching kids. However, my guilt trip is a lot less dangerous than yours. Hedy: Yeah, less dangerous. David: Yeah. Unless you count school shootings. School shootings. No fun.
Paul: You’ve always been the solid one. Always. Got a wife who loves you. Daughter who loves you. Otis: You got a son who loves you enough for two daddies. Paul: I couldn’t love David back. You got back to the world, you made that transition. Me, I’m all f***ed up inside. I’m broken, man. Broken.
Otis: Blood, we’re all broken. Paul: Not like me, man. Norm and I were holding those gooks back when the man bought it. I see him. I saw him die, man. Otis: So, what, you’re blaming yourself? Paul: You don’t even know.
Otis: Paul, when we get back to the world, I’d like you to come with me to a meeting. Paul: I don’t do that sit in a circle, whine about s**t” group thing, man. I don’t do it. I never have, and I never will. Otis: You got to talk to somebody. Paul: I talk to my brother Stormin’ Norman every single night.
Vinh Tran: Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty. Said by our uncle. Otis: What uncle? Vinh Tran: Uncle Ho Chi Minh. Otis: Now he’s your uncle? Vinh Tran: Actually, he’s the father of modern day Vietnam. Like your George Washington. Otis: Oh, my dear misinformed, misguided Vietnamese brother. Our Uncle George owned a hundred and twenty-three slaves. Vinh Tran: And as they say in our colonists second language, touché.
[as the group has been dropped off in the jungle to find the gold] Paul: I’m sorry about being on edge, you know. Being back here, it is not easy. David: It’s cool. Paul: I don’t like the way you did it, but I’m glad you’re here. Your daddy loves you, you know. You know that, right? David: You’ve got a funny way of showing it. Paul: Yeah. David: But I do. I know it. I love you back.
Melvin: Damn! Who got the bug spray? Bugs out here eating my a** up. Eddie: Otis had it last. Melvin: Well, can you walk your big pigeon-toed a** over there and get it? Eddie: What’s wrong with your big lumbering a**? Melvin: Man, you sitting right there. Paul: Oh, s**t. Melvin: You’re sitting right next to the bug spray. I got to get up from my rock, walk over there and get it. Eddie: You’re one lazy-a** m*therf***er. Melvin: You a Thanksgiving jive turkey giblet sorry-a** m*therf***er.
Paul: Where you going, boy? David: I’mma go down to the bank and make a deposit. [David holds up his shovel and toilet roll] Paul: Go on, son. Handle your business.
[after they find the burried box containing the gold is empty] Otis: F***ing fool’s gold. Paul: We are some gold-plated fools. We’re some gold-plated m*therf***ing fools.!
[as they find the gold bars scattered on the hill where the box was buried] Eddie: Why don’t you start digging, roody-poo? Melvin: M*therf***er, I don’t dig for the gold! I find the m*therf***ing gold! F*** you!
[after they’ve found all the gold bars] Eddie: But I’m not leaving here without Norman. Melvin: You think Norman cares whether you find his remains or not? Eddie: You remember what Norman said. “That gold should go to our people.”
Eddie: That gold should go towards black liberation. Paul: Yeah. Our black liberation. You do for self. Eddie: I’m talking about black reparations, man. Melvin: Well, I got mine’s.
Eddie: What about our people? Melvin: What about my people? You do what you want with your share, and we’ll each decide for ourselves. Otis: That’s what Norman said now. Eddie: Now, see? See? Otis knows. Norman wanted that gold to go towards the cause. Paul: Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, Eddie. You’re rich. Money don’t mean s**t to you. Eddie: I am not rich. Paul: Yeah, right. Whatever. Eddie: I’m not rich!
[after they find find Norman’s remains] Paul: Hey, Norm. We all here, man. Otis, Melvin, Eddie. I got my son, David. Right here. Took us a little longer than we thought, but we came back like we said we would. But this time when we get on that plane, that Freedom Bird, going back to the world, you are coming with us, brother. You coming with us, brother.
[over Norman’s remains] Paul: You’re going home, Blood. You’re going home, Blood. Come on, now. [they all hold hands as they cry] David: Blessed holy God. We come around your mighty throne of grace to thank you for this day. We thank you for the reunion of family, and friendship, and the brotherhood. Continuing in prayer, Lord, we ask you for traveling grace, and the mending of hearts. In your son’s righteous and holy name, we pray. Amen.
[after Paul insists David gets a share of the gold] Melvin: When did you turn into a grade-A, first-rate, certified, old, tired, and crazy m*therf***er? Paul: Oh, f*** you, man. When you’ve been cheated in life as much as I have, you learn to spot the sign of all them dirty rat bastards out there.
Eddie: You remember what Norm said about money? Paul: I don’t remember that. Eddie: No. No, no, no! I am sick and tired of trying to get you fools to love one another. Go ahead! You want to tear each other apart, go on. Go on! Here I thought, I hoped that we could be Bloods one more time. But, no, that ain’t going to never happen again because of this. [holds up a gold bar] Eddie: Traded brotherhood for this s**t. Right, Paul?
Paul: That m*therf***er walks backward pigeon-toed. Melvin: “Eddie, you black as a damn crow. Ain’t white like snow. And if you didn’t know, if you ain’t got no dough, then you don’t go. And that’s for damn sure.” Eddie: Yeah, well, my mama told me that money is the root of all… [just then as Eddie’s walking backwards, he steps onto a landmine and is killed]
[after Hedy and her group have helped them save David from the landmine, Paul forces David to tie them all up] Hedy: You had me fooled. Paul: You got something to say? You say it to me. Not my son.
[after David and the others take the gun from Paul] Paul: [laughs] Another m*therf***ing dope fiend double-cross. David, you don’t see what Otis is doing? You’re playing into his f***ing hands! Your dear mother would be ashamed of you! Yeah, you ain’t no f***ing son of mine! You’re dead to me. You hear me?
[after gunmen show up demanding the gold] Quân: Do you know Calley, brother? Paul: Yeah. And first of all, you ain’t my brother. And I know California, yeah. Quân: You imbecile! It’s not a state. Lt. Calley. Ever heard of My Lai? Paul: I know all about My Lai. Quân: And you, GI murder, killer of innocent children and babies. Paul: There were atrocities on both sides. So why don’t you go chew on some m*therf***ing chopsticks?
[referring to David after the shootout with the gunmen] Paul: How’s he doing, man? Otis: That’s nothing but a mosquito bite.
Otis: Listen, you crazy f***! Norman wouldn’t want us to split up. Paul: That’s right. He wouldn’t! And that’s my problem. That’s my problem, Otis. Stormin’ Norm ain’t with the living. You feel me? My problem. Peace out! [with his share of the gold, he walks off and starts sobbing and praying out loud]
[referring to the gold] Vinh Tran: I can help you get it out of the country. Otis: Alright. We’ll give you a share. Vinh Tran: How much is that? Otis: Million. Hedy: We want in too. Otis: You want in? Hedy: Yeah. Otis: Alright. Melvin: Damn, Otis. Just put the gold on Craigslist!
[as he’s walking alone in the jungle] Paul: They ain’t snatching my gold. Not me. No, sir. Not this time. I ain’t getting f***ed again. Trying to f*** me with salt in the Vaseline.
Paul: Well, we going to see who’s standing in the end. I don’t care what the VA say. VA don’t know s**t from Shinola. Worst f***ing doctors in the world. Malignancy? S**t. You made me malignant. This f***ing place bathed me in that lymphoma Agent Orange herbicidal stew. Those army bastards, they scorched the earth with it. Sprayed that s**t in the air and the water, my bloodstream, my cells, my DNA, and my m*therf***ing soul! But I ain’t dying from that s**t.
Paul: You will not kill Paul. You hear me? Hear me. You will not kill Paul. And the US government will not take me out. I will choose when and how I die. You dig? You couldn’t kill me then, with three tours, you sure in the f*** can’t kill me now. Right on.
Hedy: What’s the issue between you and your father? David: Jacklyn. Hedy: Who is she? David: My mother. My mom, she had a very difficult delivery. Hedy: And she didn’t survive? My apology. I’m intruding. It’s none of my business. David: My father, he loved her more than me. He never let me forget that either. He has hated me since the day I was born. It’s all my fault. I should’ve died instead of my mother.
[after he falls and his bag of gold gets stuck up on a tree branch] Paul: You got it, Norm. All for you, baby. Life is a b**ch!
Otis: If I got to go out, I got to go out like a man, Blood. Melvin: Morals and ethics. Sounds like Stormin’ Norman. Otis: You know, I keep hearing his voice in my head, telling me to do right, just to get it right. Stormin’ had this whole living thing figured out. We are not going to die in Nam. Come on, let’s battle, Blood.
Paul: I was asleep. I mean, I was fast asleep. Knocked out, man. God poked and woke me. I said, “God. God, why you waking my black a** up?” God said to me, “Paul, f*** them m*therf***ers. Keep on keeping on.” I said to God, “God, do what now?” God raised His voice, didn’t yell, but put some bass in that heavenly voice, and said to me, “F*** them m*therf***ers, Paul. They don’t know s**t. Do your thing. Show you’re right.”
[as Paul has a vision of Norman] Paul: What you doing here, bro? Stormin’ Norman: I’ve been wanting to talk to you. Paul: About what? Stormin’ Norman: You know. Paul: Go away, man. Please? No. No. Come on now. Come on now. Come on now. Stormin’ Norman: That I can’t do, Paul. [Norman opens his shirt to reveal a shot wound in his stomach] Stormin’ Norman: Going to have to come clean.
[after it’s revealed it was Paul who killed Norman by accident after an ambush] Stormin’ Norman: There it is. [the vision of Norman then embraces Paul] Stormin’ Norman: It was an accident. Ain’t no thing, Blood. Accident. I forgive you. You hear that? I forgive you. Ain’t no thing, Blood. Come on now. Come on, Paul. Come on, Blood. I forgive you.
[as he continues to embrace Paul] Stormin’ Norman: God is love. Love is God. Come on. Hey, you got me now. You got me good. Ain’t no thing. [Paul starts sobbing] Paul: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Stormin’ Norman: I know you, Blood. I died for you, Blood.
[as Quân and his men are making Paul dig] Quân: Where’s gold? Paul: Stormin’ Norman took it, man. It was his. Quân: Who’s Stormin’ Norman? Paul: One bad black m*therf***er. Quân: Where’s all the GI? Paul: No, I will never tell. See, we’re Bloods. We got a bond. We fought in an immoral war that wasn’t ours, for rights we didn’t have. They’re my brothers. Quân: You killed my brother! Paul: I did. [after which he sings Marvin Gaye’s “God Is My Friend” and is then killed]
Vinh Tran: After you’ve been in a war, you understand it really never ends. Whether it’s in your mind or in reality. There are just degrees. Otis: Tell me about it. Vinh Tran: If I happen to die, send my share here. [he gives Otis the address]
[as they are waiting for Desroche and his men to arrive] David: Are you ready for this? Melvin: Blood, this ain’t my first time in Nam.
[referring to David and Melvin’s handshake routine] Hedy: Well, if we live, you’ll teach me that. Melvin: We’re all going to live. And maybe someday if I come to Paris, you can show me the Champs-Eleesees. Hedy: The what? Melvin: You know, the Champs-Eleesees? That big thing y’all got. Hedy: [laughs] The Champs-Élysées.
[after Desroche and his men arrive to get the gold; in French] Hedy: These men are part of our history in here in Vietnam. So this belongs to them. We need to consider the sacrifice they made. Desroche: We have all sacrificed. Their blackness does not make their sacrifice any greater. This is simply business. Otis: What did he just say? Hedy: That the green is more important than black.
Otis: Was Tiên in on all this? Desroche: Tiên is a very smart woman, but she doesn’t have the appetite for a venture like this. She knows nothing about this. She is as innocent as you are ignorant. Otis: Well, take the gold. Leave in peace. Go with God.
[after the shootout with Desroche and his men where Melvin is killed by sacrificing himself on a grenade] Desroche: Where is the gold? Otis: Five Bloods don’t die. We multiply. Desroche: Allow me. [as he points his gun to shoot Otis, he gets shot in the face by David]
[as David reads a letter from Paul] Paul: Dear David. Son, if you’re reading this, you know I’ve met my maker. I gave this letter to my main man, your godfather, Otis, when we landed back in Nam. I came back to confront the demons that haunted me and tortured you. I made you feel like you weren’t loved. Our brother Stormin’ Norman always commanded us Bloods, love one another. In that way, I failed you, man. All I can say to you is, I’m sorry I put you through holy hell. Believe me, it wasn’t your fault. There are things about me that you will never know or understand, David. I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I can’t. Nobody can.
[as David reads a letter from Paul] Paul: But to eternity and back, your dear mother, Jackie, and I, will love you always. You best believe I will love you always, son. Your father. Your dad.
[Otis visits Tiên to see Michon, who embraces him in tears] Michon: I miss you. And I love you so. Otis: And I love you.
[speech at Riverside Church, New York, April 4th, 1967] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free, or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way, we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier, “O, yes. I say it plain America never was America to me. And yet I swear this oath, America will be.”
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