The In-Law Gang! (2023)
The In-Law Gang! (2023)
…after tolerating five years of disrespect, Cassie decides it’s time to make hell for her in-laws and her cheating husband. (IMDB)
Directed by J. Jesses Smith
Written by Jessie Jalee
Inside the In-Law Gang! Is a good film trying to fight its way out. The premise is a great set-up for a tale of revenge when Cassie (Jessie Jalee) says enough is enough and decides to turn the tables on her in-laws who have been making her life a living hell.
And they sure as hell deserve it. Her husband, John (Nashawn Kearse) is hardly supportive and deals with the pressure by having an affair with Cassie’s sister, Kelly (Cherie Danielle). His mom, Madelyn (LaShonda LaLa’ Courtney) is even worse; she gets all the best lines and is, not to mince words, a grade A bitch. And this is before we even get to the rest of the family, who all seem to hate Cassie. There is a reason for that hate, but it is in no way justifiable, these people are just bitter!
This dynamic works pretty well and the characters are fun. Madelyn really does make you hate her with her put downs and passive aggressive sniping. Apparently based on Jalee’s real-life experiences, if she suffered half as much as is portrayed in the first two acts of this movie, then you can understand why she would want to tie them all up in a basement and torture them!
(Please don’t try this at home!)
But here is where it unravels a bit for me.
The ILG is on IMDB as an action/comedy/drama. My personal feeling is, for a film like this to work, you have to go all out one way or the other; full-on comedy, or full-tilt horror/thriller. The ILG sits uncomfortably somewhere in the middle. It is humorous, but never hilarious and the pay off with the torture plays like kids messing around, rather than real payback for years of shit-slinging. For the pain that Cassie endures, we want a Bride-like, rip-roaring rampage of revenge, not silly costumes, silly voices, water and squirty cream! Jalee has created a horrible villain in Madelyn whose behaviour makes you long for an equally hard-hitting comeuppance.!
Or, going the other way, it could have pushed into comedy a little more. Cassie’s best friend and literal partner in crime, Damion (Alfred E. Rutherford) was my favourite character, cheeky, funny and supportive, although he does come around to Cassie’s torture plans a little faster than you would expect! He has a very obvious soft spot (read desire) for Cassie, so this may have had something to do with this.
At the end of the day, The ILG sits on the fence and doesn’t quite commit to either. With the ending of the film veering dangerously close to “it was all a dream territory” it never quite feels like it satisfies, and I felt a little underwhelmed when the credits rolled. Did the in-laws really learn anything? I am not sure if I didn’t ‘get it’ or if they struggled coming up with an ending. Otherwise the film holds together pretty well and flows at a decent pace.
They say, “write what you know” and Jessie Jalee has taken this to heart with a movie that has been inspired by her own experiences. Unpleasant as those experiences must have been, I’m hoping that the latter half of the movie was mostly wish fulfilment, and she is not currently wanted by the law.
The ILG could have been a fantastic, tense and horrific exploitation thriller or hilarious buddy revenge comedy, but it plows a fairly safe middle ground with an ending that is likely to disappoint a lot of viewers – although it will likely get you talking about it!
I am not going to say you HAVE to see this film, but if you find yourself scrolling and come across it, give it a go, even if just for the well-written Madelyn and Damion.