‘Supremacy’ Review: The Struggle for the Upper Hand Leaves Everyone Falling a Bit Short

By  · Published on June 13th, 2014

LAFF 2014

Power is a tricky thing. Does it come from running a house hold, proving you can make it on your own or forcing others to bend to your will? Supremacy tackles all these questions in an amplified cat-and-mouse game that has all its players struggling for the upper hand as they race against the clock.

After serving fifteen years in prison, Tully (Joe Anderson) is released into the company of a woman sent to get him by his white supremacy group. The erratic Doreen (Dawn Olivieri), who toggles between being mystified by Tully and feeling as though she needs to go toe-to-toe with him, is clearly a “groupie” of the group, but also seems like she is in no state to spend time in a car with an ex-con. After a few hours on the road, the two are pulled over and Tully’s recently won freedom starts to unravel at an alarming pace.

The swastika tattoo under Tully’s left eye immediately gives away his allegiance, but Supremacy turns into an intriguing battle of wills when Tully and Doreen find shelter in the home of the stoic Mr. Walter (Danny Glover). Mr. Walter is not the biological father of the children living in the house, but he is their clear patriarch as he tries to protect his wife, her son and daughter, and two grandchildren. Glover is the picture of restraint as he speaks in pointed whispers and preaches to his family about patience. It is clear Mr. Walter has faced men like Tully before, but what is most intriguing is the way director Deon Taylor is able to create a palpable connection between Mr. Walter and Tully that allows the power struggle between them to shift back-and-forth off a single glance. Tully is the definition of a loose cannon, but the quiet depth that emulates out of Mr. Walter seems to surprisingly speak to Tully and it is in these scenes that Anderson truly shines.

With the group forced to stay confined in the house as the night winds on, different struggles start to come to a head between Tully and Doreen and the family themselves. Supremacy starts off steeped in stereotypes, but the longer the characters are trapped with one another, it becomes clear they may have more in common than they realize. Taylor’s well-placed flashbacks to events from earlier that day keep things from feeling overly claustrophobic and reveal how Tully may be dealing with bigger demons than just racial stereotypes. A moment when Tully is enjoying the fresh air out the car window has Michael Einziger’s harshly styled score reveal his true mindset as the relentless sounds prove Tully’s mind is anything by settled.

Cinematographer Rodney Taylor keeps things dark and under lit when Tully and Doreen take over the house which helps reinforce the feeling of fear created by the intrusion, but Taylor wisely lets the dawn break through when the night ends and the effect casts a different feeling into the house and those trapped inside. One of the film’s best shots takes place in a small bathroom where a mirror casts a distorted reflection that shows Taylor knows how to reveal parts of his characters without ever having to say a word.

Supremacy is an interesting take on the home invasion genre that toggles between loud action pieces and quiet conversations which evoke big questions without preaching answers. Glover is the standout here as his presence commands any scene he is in, but he is unfortunately underutilized. Supremacy’s focus rests on Anderson and while he proves he can go toe-to-toe with Glover, his character’s fluctuating mindset would have benefited from tighter editing.

The Upside: Affecting character connections work to drive bigger questions; solid performance from Anderson alongside a layered and impressive turn from Glover; Einziger’s score and some well-placed camera angles keep the narrative from being too by-the-numbers

The Downside: Glover would have been better served as a more prominent lead rather than a supporting character and tighter editing would have helped move the film along at a more engaging pace

On the Side: Based on true life events, Robert Tully is currently set for execution this month.