Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Plot: It’s a tale as old as time—boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl mysteriously disappears, boy enters a dark world of gangsters, kidnapping, and murder. Okay, maybe not the last two parts.
Sweet TNT is a Trinidad and Tobago mystery crime drama written and directed by Andre Johnson. It tells the tale of a young Trini man named Anton (Kearn Samuel from Escape from Babylon, Tomb, and Hero) who is madly in love with his British tourist girlfriend Sherry (Natalie MacKay), a carefree, marijuana-craving artist. Their whirlwind romance becomes a deadly storm after Sherry goes missing during Carnival and Anton gets a ransom call. He then embarks on a mission to find her together with his weed-dealing, gun-toting friend Jackson (Kevin McMayo from Home Again).
Review: Let me start with the negatives and then move on to the positives. The production quality is okay but not great. There are some audio issues (a problem also found in other local films, but thankfully seems to be getting better) and there are a few odd camera angles and a couple of rough scene edits. But these are not deal-breaking and it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the film.
The acting here is competent though the script doesn’t give much room for the cast to flex their thespian muscles. Kearn Samuel is a solid enough lead and has okay chemistry with Natalie MacKay. Anthony Lawrence puts in the work as vile gangster “Babyface” though hardened street gangster isn’t exactly the toughest role there is. The standout performance for me was Kevin McMayo as Jackson as he gave the most authentic, and at times witty, performance. The film also features some attractive shots of Tobago and Carnival so it ticks both of the tourism boxes. And the language is also authentically Trinidadian, which I something I always prefer, though the addition of subtitles would have been helpful for international viewers. And I’m not the biggest fan of the title. I understand they wanted to do a play on “sweet Trinidad and Tobago” and “sweet TNT (the explosive)” but to the casual viewer it sounds like a touristy ad or an island romcom.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that there was a period when all the films coming out of TT seemed to either be dramas or gangster action flicks. But Sweet TNT, with its core mystery plotline, would have offered something unique both when it came out back in 2011 and even today. And it is the plot that makes the film most worth watching, namely with its strong twists. Now the story is far from perfect and there is both a lack of character development (we don’t know what Anton does for a living despite him having to try and pay a $30,000 ransom) and the climax felt rushed. But that said, it is still a competent, easy-to-follow tale that is generally entertaining. Also kudos to director Andre Johnson and the sound mixing by Cedric Smart for creating some genuine tension which even some Hollywood films fail to accomplish.
Now I’ve seen a few local people on social media denouncing the movie as “trash”, including one person who declared all local movies are crap and he will never watch another one again. Well to that ill-informed gentleman I would ask if they watch a bad Hollywood movie (of which there are MANY) if they would then swear off all Hollywood movies? And I can bet dollars to donuts that their answer would be “no” because that would be ridiculous. So why swear off all local movies then? Why the passion to poop all over your own local film industry but Hollywood always gets a pass? Sure, the local industry lacks the finances, structure, facilities (et cetera et cetera) of their US counterpart but there is still a lot of creativity to be had and some genuinely great films. But if people are dismissing a film out of hand just because it is a “local film” then they are operating from a place of ignorance and it is lamentable they would go around spreading such ignorance. I am not a lover of the term “support local” as I think it should be amended to “support quality local”, but I also will not agree with completely blanking a country’s entire industry, especially when one hasn’t given it a fair shake. Rant officially over.
Sweet TNT isn’t the greatest movie you will ever see but it’s decent enough and you can tell there was effort and creativity put in there. And as both a Trinidadian and film reviewer I appreciate that.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6 out of 10
You can view the film for yourself on YouTube by clicking this link. For more Trini action you can check out my review of gangster flick Welcome to Warlock by clicking here. Or if you want some more intrigue with your gunplay you can check out my review of Pendulum by clicking here.
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.