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Film / Charm City Kings

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Charm City Kings is a 2020 drama from director Angel Manuel Soto, co-produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. It is based on the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys. It stars Jahi Di’Allo Winston and Meek Mill.

Set in Baltimore, 14-year-old Mouse is an aspiring vet and dreams of joining dirt bike gang Midnight Clique after his late brother Stro inspired him to start riding. When Mouse meets the gang’s leader, Blax (Mill), the man takes Mouse under his wing, which will lead Mouse to decide whether he wants to follow an honest path, or one paved with fast money and violence.

Originally set for a theatrical release, the film premiered on HBO Max in August 2020. It was pulled from the platform in July 2022 in a cost-cutting move by Warner Bros. Discovery.

The film provides examples of:

  • The Atoner: Blax blames himself for Stro’s death and thinks taking Mouse under his wing will help him do right.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sweartagawd is killed during a botched robbery and Blax turns himself in to the police so that Mouse will not get in trouble. A year later, however, Mouse is done with the gang lifestyle and is working with the vet, while still remaining on mostly good terms with Nicki and Lamont, the latter of whom is still mourning Sweartagawd with Mouse.
  • Catchphrase: “Swear to God”, as spoken by...Sweartagawd.
  • Death of a Child: 13-year-old Sweartagawd is killed during a botched robbery.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Teri is abrasive toward Mouse (her son), but she is shown to truly care about him and is hard on him so he won’t end up like Stro.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Teri sees news of a 13-year-old getting killed during a robbery, she thinks it’s Mouse and goes to call his phone, looking increasingly worried when he won’t answer. The victim was Sweartagawd, and Mouse happens to walk into the house moments later.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Sweartagawd is only ever referred to by that name.
  • Parental Substitute: Detective Rivers is the closest thing Mouse has to a father figure, despite the latter always speaking rudely to him and trying to brush him off.
  • Posthumous Character: Stro, Mouse’s older brother who passed away years earlier, is seen early on in an old video Mouse is watching.
  • Shout-Out: Lamont compares Mouse working in Blax’s garage for free to The Karate Kid.
  • Remake Cameo: Tyquan “Pug” Ford, the subject of the documentary that the film is based off, plays the role of Stro.
  • Taking the Heat: Blax claims responsibility for the botched robbery that cost Sweartagawd his life so that Mouse will not go to jail.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Mouse adopts this personality after doing runs for the Clique, even brushing off Nicki when she wants to hang out with him.