‘Mea Culpa’ Review: Might Just Leave You Guilty Of Watching 


Okay, I’ve been talking about the romance renaissance with Anyone But You doing so well in the cinema and stuff, but I didn’t realize that the adult psychological thrillers are also having their moment recently. I am not saying that they disappeared off the face of the earth like rom-coms, but recently, there have been many of these small-budget-charged-up thrillers that keep you guessing until the end, only for a mediocre payoff that is not satisfying at all. Maybe I’m the problem, and I’m just tired of thrillers in general, but they need to be especially engaging if they need to be considered good, I suppose. The first note of appreciation is for the name of this film, though. Well played, Tyler Perry. However, that’s probably one of the few good things about Mea Culpa that doesn’t really relate to the actual substance. For example, the fashion in this film is on point, and Kelly Rowland is an absolute stunner. Every outfit, every beauty look was on point; however, I could look at publicity stills if I simply wanted to admire her looks. 

Mea, a married lawyer specializing in criminal defense, starts to question her principles when she agrees to represent Zyair, an artist accused of murdering his girlfriend. There’s a certain chemistry between them, and we’re left wondering where it might lead. Is Zyair truly a criminal, or is he just a deceitful person? We’re left in the dark about his true nature. In all honesty, Zyair’s nonchalant attitude caught me off guard, and I almost felt like giving up on the movie. It takes a while for the story to unfold and for us to understand why Mea is feeling down and what’s going on with her family. The conflicts between the characters are apparent, but the movie only scratches the surface without delving deeper into their backgrounds. Perhaps it’s because it wants us to focus more on the twists in the later part of the film. If I didn’t have to see it through, I would’ve stopped watching within the first half-hour. What’s particularly frustrating is how streaming platforms churn out subpar content because they know we’re hungry for quantity rather than quality, so they’ll plop anything down on the table. I don’t think Mea Culpa is a particularly bad film; I just feel like it’s clumsily put together, especially considering the names involved. 

Kelly Rowland is, of course, absolutely stunning in Mea Culpa, as I’ve mentioned earlier. She’s also the most engaging part of the film, despite the awkward dialogue and pacing of the film. Of course, she has incredible chemistry with Trevante Rhodes, too. Not to lie, some of the choreography is interesting, to say the least. I guess we know what the budget is going towards, huh? The movie is shot okay-ish, and it does appear to be an expensive film. Those outfits, though, girl, I would kill for some of those suits. I suppose it’s because of the pacing discrepancy that I found a disconnect between the first and last acts of the film. The supporting cast is also really good. I love how they cast real-life brothers in the roles of the brothers in the film, and the older one definitely takes the cake with this performance. The role is also more demanding, so that’s a fair result, I suppose. I’m not quite sure why Kerry O’Malley was chosen for the role of the mother, because she’s only three years older than Kelly Rowland, and it kind of shows. I’m not trying to be ageist; it’s just a bit strange to see them argue as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and to take the stuff seriously because it comes across as very unserious. 

In terms of plot, there is substance in Mea Culpa. I think it’s a solid enough idea, and there’s some saucy stuff that people are going to love, but it’s just that the first act takes too long to give us a feel of what’s really going on. Honestly, you could’ve convinced me the first act is of a drama film, where a husband-and-wife ain’t doing so well, all because of a messed-up mother-in-law, and I’d believe you. I think my biggest qualm has to be with the way the film begins, but it also keeps that slow pace going for too long for me to fully feel that last act. I had almost lost interest in the mystery aspect of things by then. Also, without giving any spoilers, I did find some things in the film completely unnecessary and only added on for some sort of shock value, or in order to put this in the adult movie category rather than a plain old thriller. It almost feels forced for the most part. 

Visually, Mea Culpa is pretty. Zyair’s (this name is cooler on paper than it is to say) paintings are gorgeous because they’re mainly of gorgeous women; you can’t really go wrong there. It does have that eerie tone that makes you feel like you’re watching a Batman film or something that the “new” Ben Affleck would like to be in. Still, I’m not sure it’s enough for me to recommend this film. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Mea Culpa may not be a terrible thriller, but I’m not sure it’s worth your time, either. If you don’t mind spending an afternoon fawning over some beautiful people engaging with a mostly meaningless plot, give this movie a go, or you could watch a gazillion other better ones. Maybe I’m just not the intended audience for this film. At the end of the day, I feel like this film is decent at everything, but somehow, it didn’t quite work for me. The end is somewhat exciting and engaging, so if you have the patience to wait along the way, then go for it. Personally, I didn’t quite like the change of pace, although it’s common in the genre. I’d give Mea Culpa 2.5 out of 5 stars, with extra marks for the effort and cast. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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