Sunday, December 18, 2016

All About the Benjamins


Starring: Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Tommy Flanagan, Eva Mendes, Carmen Chaplin, Valarie Rae Miller, Roger Guenveur Smith

Rated R for Strong Violence, Pervasive Language and Brief Sexuality

On some level, I've begun to appreciate movies like "All About the Benjamins."  In an era of endless reboots, sequels and superhero obsessions, a movie with a clear beginning, middle and end, no in-jokes or Easter Eggs, or Stan Lee cameos is something like a breath of fresh air.  That doesn't make this movie any better, but it at least has that going for it.

Beleaguered bounty hunter Bucum (Cube) has been assigned to nab a frequent target: fast-talking hustler Reggie (Epps).  While trying to escape from Bucum's clutches, he hides out in a van.  That van belongs to Ursula (Chaplin) and Julian (Smith), who just absconded with $20 million worth of diamonds.  While Bucum wants to follow the diamonds, Reggie only wants the wallet he lost in his escape, which has a winning lottery ticket worth $60 million.

Frankly, "All About the Benjamins" is so tired and boring that it's almost not worth reviewing.  I mean, what can I say about it?  It's boring, cliché, badly acted, poorly made and not the least bit funny.  Do I really need to say more?

I have come to the realization that riff comedy isn't planned.  It's only used when the filmmakers and actors realize that their material is so bad to begin with.  The story is lame.  The situations aren't funny.  The actors are bored.  And so are we.

What was Ice Cube thinking when he co-wrote and co-produced this movie?  It's not that he has no sense of humor.  See him in "Anaconda" or "21 Jump Street" and you'll know that he can get laughs with ease.  Maybe he was under the impression that if he laid out the basics for a film, he and the other actors could create magic on the set.  If that was the case, he was wrong.

Neither Ice Cube nor Mike Epps is compelling or interesting in any way.  As the straight man, Ice Cube looks bored.  As the colorful comic sidekick, Mike Epps is irritating.  He's obnoxious and constantly mugging for the camera.  Eva Mendes apparently forgot how to act.  The only ones who are interesting are Tommy Flanagan as the obligatory villain with an accent and Valarie Rae Miller as Bucum's right hand lady.  The movie might have been better had they been center focus, but alas their screen time is minimal.

This was Kevin Bray's first feature film after a career that started in, you guessed it, music videos.  Why don't studios hire independent filmmakers to make their movies?  They know how to tell stories and direct actors?  Anyway, it's plainly obvious.  Bray does some "cool" things with filters and editing tricks, which brings up the energy but makes it look ostentatious rather than interesting.  It's not as bad as "Belly," but it comes close at times.  And that's saying something.

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