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Film Review: 'Friend Request'

An age-old plotline gets an upgrade in this dramatic, well-acted Lifetime-ian thriller with an edge.

By Trevor WellsPublished 4 years ago 4 min read

Life for Malik Tucker (Tosin Morohunfola) couldn't get much better. In addition to his career as an ADA climbing with talk of him being a strong candidate for governor, his wife Michelle (Renelle Nicole) is working to relaunch her catering business after taking time off to raise their son. But things take a turn when Malik goes to his college reunion to accept an award, where he reunites with his ex-girlfriend Rayna Parsons (Vicky Jeudy).

After a few drinks with his old flame, Malik is shocked to find himself waking up in Rayna's bed, with Rayna giddy over them having rekindled their relationship. Horrified, Malik tells Rayna that he loves his wife and that what happened between them was a mistake, hoping to be able to put his indiscretion behind him. But two months later, Malik is shocked to learn that Rayna is in town and has hired Michelle to provide catering for her art gallery. Malik also learns that Rayna's fixation on him hasn't dimmed in the time since their tryst--and she's not prepared to let him go this time. Will Malik's mistake cost him everything?

Coming to us courtesy of MarVista Entertainment and following the story of a man whose marriage is threatened by a psychotic ex-girlfriend, you would think Friend Request was destined to grace the screens of Lifetime. But instead, Friend Request found its home on BET, which appears to be trying to compete with Lifetime by putting out their own budding catalog of original movies. So in addition to the film being allowed to get more risque than your average Lifetime feature (i.e. more explicit sex/sex talk and swearing), Friend Request also takes the standard Fatal Attraction template and flips it on its head.

One of the more overarching positives about Friend Request, however, would be the tone it establishes for itself. While director Roger M. Bobb and writer Angela-Burt Murray could've made the mistake of playing the film too close to the formula, they instead take the inherent melodrama of the story they create and run with it to great effect. Friend Request plays up its dramatic nature to just the right amount: fun without getting cheesy or over-the-top (a noteworthy example would be the provocative way in which Malik learns about Rayna's return). The film also contains some solidly comedic exchanges between its characters, with the actors all playing well off each other in these instances, before the film concludes on a darkly hilarious scene.

Speaking of actors, the cast for Friend Request is incredibly strong, with everyone bringing a vibrant energy to their characters. Tosin Morohunfola makes for a charismatic and likable lead, making Malik believable as a successful ADA and family man. While the film has Malik make the usual facepalm-inducing decision to keep Michelle in the dark about Rayna, even as it becomes immensely clear he should come right out and tell her everything, Morohunfola maintains Malik's likability enough to where you continue to root for him and believe in his remorse. Renelle Nicole shares in Morohunfola's natural likability as Michelle, forming chemistry with Morohunfola that will make you want the Tucker marriage to survive Rayna's antics and bringing warmth to Michelle as she unknowingly befriends her husband's stalker. SPOILER ALERT The sole dark mark in Michelle's character is how she doesn't connect the dots after learning about Malik's "affair" and realize that Rayna is the "other woman"--instead needing to be handed literal photographic proof by Rayna in order to put two and two together. Spoilers Over

Vicky Jeudy, though, is the undisputed crown jewel of Friend Request. From the minute Rayna is introduced to us in a sexy red dress and making not-at-all-subtly flirtatious remarks to Malik, it becomes clear that Jeudy will be playing Rayna for all the drama she's worth. And Jeudy succeeds in doing just that, allowing Rayna to revel in her efforts to torment Malik with their secret and her increasingly hostile means of trying to seduce him. Jeudy plays Rayna's moments of insanity perfectly, and apart from one overly melodramatic instance, plays Rayna's feigned friendship with Michelle in a more restrained way to where you can believe that Michelle would buy into the act. Jeudy gives Rayna all the qualities needed to make a delicious Lifetime-ian villainess, with the third act revelations about Rayna serving as the icing on the proverbial cake.

Larry Rhem stands out as the most humorous of the cast, giving Garrett a natural wit that allows him to be the laid-back, wise-cracking counterpart to the more serious, buttoned-up Malik. SPOILER ALERT While the fact that Garrett is the mastermind behind Rayna's efforts to ruin Malik's life out of jealousy is a twist many might see coming well in advance, it doesn't make Garrett's transformation from chill best friend to violent monster any less shocking a transition thanks to Rhem's performance. Plus, the full extent of Garrett and Rayna's plot is sure to pack a few surprises for even the more experienced viewer. Spoilers Over In more minor supporting cast members, Tanya Alina Galván makes Maria a charming ally in Malik's efforts to stop Rayna while Patrese McClain is a riot as Michelle's protective cousin Terri.

As stated before, Friend Request's plot isn't perfect. A fair amount of disbelief suspension is required to stomach the main leads' denser moments, and there are plot twists that observant viewers are sure to catch ahead of time. But once you make it over those forgivable hurdles, Friend Request is an exceptionally entertaining thriller that offers a great deal to make itself different from MarVista's usual Lifetime-esque fare. With strong actors, equally compelling characters to go with them, and a story that adds flavor to what could've been a vanilla tale of obsession, Friend Request shows that BET can deliver the thrills and mayhem just as good as Lifetime. Here's hoping they keep up the great work!

Score: 9 out of 10 chain-link necklaces.


About the Creator

Trevor Wells

Aspiring writer and film lover: Lifetime, Hallmark, indie, and anything else that strikes my interest. He/him.

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Twitter: @TrevorWells98

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Email: [email protected]

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    Trevor WellsWritten by Trevor Wells

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