The Reel Review
More than 50 years after the Vietnam War, four black American veterans return to Vietnam. Their quest: to retrieve two items – the remains of their fallen “fifth blood” brother and millions of dollars in gold bars they’d stashed away in the jungle, in this Spike Lee-directed war adventure on Netflix.
Lee borrows heavily from John Huston’s iconic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, injecting fun homages into the classic tale of greed and paranoia, as well as his own eye-opening Black History spin (with LOTS of asides). The result is a pretty psychotic tonal shift, like watching two, very disjointed movies – one, an entertaining but sloppily-conceived gold heist and the other, a thought-provoking history lesson about the Black experience in the Vietnam War and 1960s and 70s America. Loaded with symbolism, Da 5 Bloods is at times ridiculous and surreal.
Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty, Malcolm X) is the film’s standout, riveting as the group’s paranoid hothead, a PTSD-impacted, Trump-loving veteran. His physically imposing character elicits a full range of emotions in nearly every scene. A change in the aspect ratio is the clue we are in one of the frequent Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese say, American War) flashbacks, where the late Chadwick Boseman appears as the group’s inspiring, long-departed squad leader. Lee’s film is messy, at times amateurish, and at two and half hours, 45 minutes too long. But with just so much going on, and with some wildly unpredictable twists, Da 5 Bloods is never dull. And its provocative political message is thought provoking.
• Initially Da 5 Bloods was titled The Last Tour, and was about four aging white veterans returning to Vietnam.
• Although set in Vietnam, Da 5 Bloods was also filmed in and around Chiang Mai, Thailand.