An Odd Mix in ‘Bayou Caviar’

For die-hard fans of the crime genre, “Bayou Caviar” might offer some appeal. There’s plenty of action and some very gory violence in the film.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Famke Janssen in a scene from "Bayou Caviar." (Photo © Gravitas Pictures)

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Famke Janssen in a scene from “Bayou Caviar.” (Photo © Gravitas Pictures)

After witnessing a murder at the hands of Russian mobsters, a former boxing champion orchestrates an extortion plot in order to return to a normal life.

CAST: Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Rodney Jones), Famke Janssen (Nic), Richard Dreyfuss (Yuri), Lia Marie Johnson (Kat), Gregg Bello (Isaac)

Former boxing champion Rodney Jones (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is living a dull existence as a bouncer at a trendy Louisiana nightclub. After he witnesses a particularly gruesome murder by Yuri (Richard Dreyfuss) and his band of Russian mobsters, Rodney comes up with a scheme to sever ties with mob and return to a normal life. He orchestrates an extortion plot with the help of his photographer friend Nic (Famke Janssen) and Kat (Lia Marie Johnson), a teenage girl that he meets at the nightclub who dreams of becoming a movie star. Rodney convinces Nic to shoot an elicit sex video featuring Kat and Isaac (Gregg Bello), a married devout Orthodox Jewish real estate developer in an effort to bring down the Russian mobsters.

Cuba Gooding, Jr., (who also co-wrote the screenplay) makes his directorial debut with “Bayou Caviar.” Between starring, writing, and directing the film, Gooding has clearly taken on more than he can handle in one project. The main problem is the confusing script that he co-wrote with Eitan Gorlin (“The Holy Land”). It’s not always clear how the various dramatic elements tie in together. Additionally, the film can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a brutal Quentin Tarantino-style crime story, a serious examination of the trappings of fame, or just a sleazy exploitation film.

Lia Marie Johnson in a scene from "Bayou Caviar." (Photo © Brittany House Pictures)

Lia Marie Johnson in a scene from “Bayou Caviar.” (Photo © Brittany House Pictures)

As a director, Gooding gets credible performances from most of his cast (including himself), but Dreyfuss is a bit over the top as the mob boss. Lia Marie Johnson captures the giddiness and naivete of Kat, but judging from her physical behavior it’s not always clear how comfortable (or uncomfortable) her character is with Rodney’s scheme.

For die-hard fans of the crime genre, “Bayou Caviar” might offer some appeal. There’s plenty of action and some very gory violence in the film. Given the subject matter, there’s surprisingly very little on-screen sex.

However, for most people “Bayou Caviar” is at best something to fill up time until you can find something more worthwhile to watch. The film appears to be shot on location in southern Louisiana, but does little to capture the beauty and uniqueness of the area.

The film opened on Friday, October 5, 2018 in limited release theatrically by Gravitas Ventures. It is also available on demand.

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