Mea Culpa (2024)

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Mea Culpa (2024)

Tyler Perry’s new Netflix deal allows him to mix his comedy and melodrama with other genres. For example, “A Jazzman’s Blues” put Perry’s usual formula in a 1930s period setting; before that, his first film for the streamer, “A Fall from Grace,” was a legal thriller. Now, with “Mea Culpa,” the prolific writer-director extends that genre even further, making a twisty ’80s-style erotic thriller with a distinctive Tyler Perry twist. It’s “Jagged Edge” meets “Fatal Attraction,” with the lawyer falling for her client a man accused of killing his partner and they access their love nest only via freight elevator.

The lawyer is Mea Harper (Kelly Rowland); the artist is Zyair Malloy (Trevante Rhodes), who also killed his girlfriend. She is married; he is arrogant, talented and seductive. You can figure out where this goes. We meet Mea in marriage counseling with her husband (Sean Sagar). Things are not good at home; she already has a private investigator (Ron Reaco Lee) tailing him because she caught him holding hands with another woman.

Not only that: This being a Perry production, there are also complicated familial relationships. Mea’s mother-in-law (Kerry O’Malley) is a cancer patient who doesn’t care for the woman her son chose, her brother-in-law (Nick Sagar) is the district attorney prosecuting her client. The audience gets its first taste that we’re not dealing with a straight-up erotic thriller when we see what the husband did.

They have an argument; both spouses start accusing one another of things. Suddenly he’s not just a mama’s boy with wandering eyes he’s also unemployed. And to top it off? He was fired from his job as an anesthesiologist because he was high and drunk while working or, as Mea puts it, “got addicted to his own shit.” Rowland tries to put all the conviction in the world behind that line, but the scene veers from serious to hilarious. It’s an early clue there’s more where this came from. Perry delivers.

But before things get deliciously absurd, Mea and Zyair have a sultry cat-and-mouse game to play. Unfortunately, Rowland and Rhodes share zero chemistry. They look the part; they’re lit in a way that makes them even more attractive; but something is off. The cheesy dialogue doesn’t help; nor does the repetitiveness of scenes where they threaten to end their professional relationship. Same goes for Mea’s many phone calls with her P.I., which do nothing but interrupt the budding infatuation.

Perry tries to heat up the proceedings with Amanda Jones’ score. But music can only create erotic tension if there is any to start with — and these actors are just not in rhythm. They seem to be waiting for each other to finish sentences throwing off the flow of scenes.

Don’t worry about it, because there is still the ridiculous ending to look forward too. It’s so over the top, so contrived that no one can take what happens as even close to real life but it should be good for anyone who knows Perry’s work. Betrayals and grudges are aired, things turn physical, a couple of knives get pulled and everything falls apart. Perry knows what he is doing; there is absolutely no way that he could think any of this stuff is true for even a second. But hey, it might be fun to sit around with some wine after and talk about how crazy this movie was.

This isn’t for everybody hell, most people will write this off as shlock but I respect a filmmaker who knows their audience. And for his core fans? It’ll do on a quiet night at home when there’s nothing else going on.

Also On Putlocker.

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