Poor Durell (Ice Cube). He’s conflicted, in desperate need of $17,000 so his son doesn’t have to move to Atlanta. LeeJohn (Tracey Morgan) has the plan, robbing a church overflowing with cash in preparation for their own move. Durell doesn’t like the idea as they sit in a cafe chatting this plan over, that is until his son calls him at the exact right moment to spur on the emotional involvement and send First Sunday into a downward spiral.
It’s always amazing to see a film like this, overflowing with quality actors, comedic talents, and reasonable intentions, fall so flat. Writer/director David E. Talbert tries mixing some emotions into the mix, LeeJohn and Durell both coming from harsh upbringings and both wanting to do the right thing. First Sunday handles those few tender moments well, LeeJohn even breaking down when one of the church goers he’s holding hostage gives him a birthday moment he never had.
That mixture, of rampant aggressiveness and touching, sentimental moments breaks First Sunday apart. The innocence, despite the intention, is hard to see as Durell waves a gun in front of a scared child sitting in a pew. The movie focuses on transformations and forgiveness, while the backstory lets the audience in on past bad judgment calls on the part of these criminals. Taking a congregation hostage, beginning with that phone call contrivance, is too much to handle.
First Sunday ends on a courtroom sequence that is stretched so far, it might be the least credible of all absurd movie courtrooms. Judge Judy would not be proud. Our Judge (Keith David) lets an entire different case take precedent so a suspicious Deacon gets his day in court. It’s the cop out of all cop outs for our leads, off the hook because of forgiveness, an ideal solution to a situation that probably never should have happened in the first place.
This is a pleasing looking film, color saturation properly elevated for a general breezy comedy. Primaries are bold and rich, the whole movie veering slightly warm. Clothes and brightly colored backdrops are loaded with a variety of hues, creating images that are instantaneously enjoyable before any other elements are introduced.
Sony’s AVC encode certainly helps, a light grain structure so minimal it barely makes its presence felt. Few spikes are noted, these equally limited in their visibility. That leaves the video clear, precisely rendering fine detail without fault. Close-ups are typically outstanding, a late series of sequences taking place in a confined room that’s over heated. Everyone becomes increasingly sweaty, the droplets glistening as they move, resulting is easily discernible pores. The same holds true for clothes, a dress worn by an older member of church carrying a complex pattern that is nothing short of perfection in terms of how well it’s defined.
First Sunday is a little soft, the opening moments inside an electronics shop a sign of things to come. It’s not pervasive, leaving medium shots a bit lower on the definition scale. There’s a distinctive lens at work too, leaving the edges of the frame murky in terms of video. It’s minor.
The film is genuinely bright though, with a consistent contrast even in low light. Where it runs into some trouble are the black levels. While rich and generating substantial depth, shadow detail becomes the victim. As Ice Cube tries to barricade the door to prevent police entry late, his hair becomes a solid mass, lost to the low light and crush working in tandem. Still, there’s enough dimensionality on display to make those minor lapses forgivable.
A TrueHD mix is sufficient for this light material considering it has so little to do. The subwoofer has most of the day off once past the deep soundtrack blaring over the credits. Even some brief gunfire doesn’t go anywhere near it.
That leaves little for the surrounds to tackle too. A church service involving a choir is the highlight of the entire thing, spreading around the soundfield aggressively and cleanly. As Durell and LeeJohn try to escape the police near the finale, police sirens wail in all channels as they join in the chase. It’s a fantastic effect.
All that’s left is crisp, natural dialogue living up the expectation of modern audio design. Balance is fine, and everything is prioritized where it should be.
A commentary comes from writer/director David E. Talbert, and he also chats optionally over 14 deleted scenes. A gag reel is enjoyable, while some outtakes hold a bunch of improv. A nifty piece is a short speech given by Talbert after the final shot was completed. Hood Robbin’ is a general 16-minute making of, with a pop-up fact track over the main feature the final piece (that aside from trailers).