Mea Culpa REVIEW – Lots of Faults

This is movie is a clear Skip It.

Mea Culpa
Mea Culpa

Trevante Rhodes is such an underrated actor. He was great in Moonlight, and fantastic even in lesser films like Bird Box. Seeing his name on the cast list, as well as Kelly Rowland as the lead, led me to assume that maybe Mea Culpa wouldn’t be so bad. And then I watched it. The blame lies solely in the hands of director and writer Tyler Perry, who has constructed an erotic thriller so baffling and tonally inconsistent.

The film follows Mea Harper (note the pun), played by Rowland, who is a hot-shot defense attorney. Her personal life, however, is suffering. Her husband Kal (Sean Sagar) has a drug problem, and was fired from his job as an anesthesiologist due to said problem. This means that Mea is single-handedly supporting the two of them. What makes matters worse is Kal’s interfering family. His mother Azalia (Kerry O’Malley) seems intent on humiliating Mea at every turn, and his brother Ray (Nick Sagar) is just an unlikeable sleazebag. Ray is the assistant DA trying the high profile murder case. At the centre of it is Zyair Malloy (Rhodes), who’s been charged with the murder of his girlfriend.

Mea has been recommended to Zyair as a defense attorney, and despite the conflict of interest – since Ray is on the prosecution side – she is somehow allowed to take the case. From the get-go, we all know what’s going to happen given that this is an erotic thriller. The problem here is that there’s no sense of realism in how anything unfolds. Even though Zyair is headed towards a murder trial, he never seems to be concerned about that. He’s putting the moves on Mea with no care in the world, and making his rounds in an underground sex dungeon.

Innocent or guilty, most people feel something, and would work with their defense attorney to help save their own skin. All he seems intent on doing is seducing Mea. We can’t even label it as some great love and passion, because Zyair treats women as disposable objects. So it’s downright bizarre that an intelligent woman like Mea can even fall prey to his nonsense.

As much as I lament Rhodes even doing this movie – he should really be in better films – he does a decent job of conveying Zyair’s snake-like qualities. He’s cold, impersonal, and immensely unlikeable. Usually in these type of murder trial films, there should at least be some ambiguity regarding the person’s culpability, but the man is such a scumbag that I didn’t even care if he was guilty or innocent.

The writing here for the female characters is even worse. Mea makes questionable choices throughout the film, and her sister-in–law Charlise is so underwritten that she feels like a footnote in a film that should have developed her more. The film also takes itself too seriously to even be considered camp, but maybe it would have had more success as a dark comedy than a straightforward thriller.

Mea culpa is latin for “through my fault” – at this point it feels like my fault for even watching this in the first place.

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Mea Culpa
This film doesn't succeed as an erotic thriller, nor can it be labelled a guilty pleasure. I can accept the ridiculous, what I can't accept is a soulless film with characters so paper-thin that there's nothing to stand on.