The record of rappers becoming actors is decidedly mixed. Eminem drew praise for his semi-autobiographical turn in 8 Mile while his Detroit neighbor Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson was largely panned for his work in his 2005 biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Ice Cube and Ice T have both earned steady paychecks and occasional acclaim on the big and small screens while the less-esteemed member of the Brothers Ice Vanilla never quite recovered from 1991‘s disastrous Cool as Ice.
Two of the latest hip-hoppers to attempt the leap Chris Brown and Tip “T.I.” Harris can both be seen in the heist thriller Takers. They also served as producers on the film and in that regard they deserve credit for helping assemble a cast that quite effectively lowers the bar for their acting work. In an ensemble that includes the likes of Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen they needn’t worry about issuing Oscar-worthy performances. As long as they’re semi-ambulatory they stand a fairly good chance of keeping pace with Takers’ slow-moving herd.
The film’s plot concerns a swaggering crew of bank robbers whose sophisticated methods have enabled them to pull off a number of high-stakes heists with nary a hitch. Their strict adherence to a one-job-per-year schedule is enough to fund a luxurious lifestyle in which they freely indulge their tastes for fancy cars tailored suits single-malt scotch and big cigars (No King Cobra and Swisher Sweets for these classy gents. No siree.) All of which is fastidiously depicted by director John Luessenhop (Lockdown) whose aesthetic sensibility in Takers varies between hip-hop video and Maker’s Mark ad.
And they’re decent civic-minded folks too: Jake (Michael Ealy) is eager to leave the game and settle down with his fiance (Zoe Saldana) the proprietor of a trendy downtown L.A. cocktail lounge; his brother Jesse (Brown) wants to ensure their elderly father is taken care of upon his release from prison; proper English chap Gordon (Idris Elba the lone standout) faithfully shepherds his junkie sister through rehab; John’s (Walker) moral compass won’t allow for shooting cops or unarmed civilians; and A.J. (Christensen) is a talented pianist whose bowler hat and hoarse hepcat diction are I can only assume indicative of a deep appreciation for jazz-age style.
But for all the gang’s obvious intelligence their judgment of character is appallingly poor. When a shady former associate named Ghost (T.I. — which after watching the film I now realize stands for "Totally Incoherent") comes to them with a suspiciously lucrative new opportunity he claims to have hatched during a recent jail stint the fellas need all of a nanosecond to sign on to the dubious scheme forsaking all of the rules that made them successful. Why they’d place their livelihoods on the line for an ex-con who can’t be bothered to raise his eyelids above half-mast or pronounce consonants appearing at the end of words like “love” (which his lazy twang renders “luh”) is beyond me but it’s the first of several missteps that open the door for Detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) an old-school cop who refuses allow a crumbling marriage chronic sleep deprivation or established caselaw involving warrants and Miranda rights to deter him in his dogged pursuit of justice.
Takers features a smattering of the expected twists and turns most of which are sufficiently telegraphed by Luessenhop’s direction which downshifts to slow-motion at the advent of every action sequence and the film’s predictable story arc. What is surprising about the film is its lack of verve an absolute must for a heist flick and something which even the worst of the Ocean’s films boasted. For all of its bullets and bling Takers all too often feels as lethargic as its co-producer and co-star T.I. looks. (Although to be fair Dillon appears at times to be sleep-walking as well.)
The Iron Man star, 40, recently let slip he's a married man after exchanging vows with Michelle Ghent in a small Los Angeles ceremony in January (10).
The news emerged just months after he split from his actress fiancee Zulay Henao, his co-star in 2009 movie Fighting, and reports suggested his nuptials with Ghent occurred after a whirlwind romance.
But Us Weekly magazine reports Howard has known Ghent for years - and he grew close to the 33-year-old while he was mourning the passing of his mum Anita.
A source tells the publication, "They met years ago and reconnected early last year. (They) bonded when she consoled him over the loss of his mother.
"He feels so lucky."
Howard split from his first wife, Lori McCommas, in 2003 and remarried her in 2005.
The Oscar nominated star, 39, befriended Howard years ago when they were both struggling actors in the movie industry.
They have since starred together in another 2005 film, Four Brothers, and they sent temperatures soaring when they locked lips at the 2009 Soul Train Music Awards to recreate a scene from Hustle and Flow.
But Henson treasures newly-single Howard as a friend more than anything and doesn't want him to become one of her ex-lovers she never talks to.
She tells Sister 2 Sister magazine, "I think Terrence is an incredible man, and I think he's going to be incredible to some woman. But I'm not her. I'm clear on that. I am so clear on that. I would rather keep Terrence as a really close friend and in my life forever than cross that line and potentially ruin a good friendship.
"I love this (friendship)... It's so real and so raw and so authentic. I don't want to jeopardise that... because all the guys I broke up with, I don't talk to them. Once you get the wrap, I'm gone."
Howard split from his actress fiancee and Fighting co-star Zulay Henao last year (09).
The 40-year-old actor began dating the Colombian beauty - his co-star in 2009 movie Fighting - in 2007 and proposed to Henao last May (09) in Prague, Czech Republic.
The couple has never confirmed its relationship until now, but Howard reveals he's no longer with the 30 year old.
When asked if he's set to wed Henao, he tells Sister 2 Sister magazine, "No, that didn't work out."
Howard broke the news of his engagement to WENN in a Prague bar.
Howard was previously romantically linked to his ex-wife Lori McCommas. They ended their 14 year marriage in 2003, but the actor successfully wooed her back and they remarried, only to split for good soon after.
Henao helped Howard recover from the heartbreaking death of his beloved mother Anita to cancer in 2008.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
A total knockout as a piece of well-made B-movie grit Fighting focuses on two men living on separate edges of society who come together to make a killing in the forbidden world of bare-knuckle fighting. When con man Harvey Boarden spots raw street-fighting talent in the form of small-town dude Shawn MacArthur the two team up by entering Shawn in the potentially lucrative underground circuit a place where rich men bet on young brawlers who battle like pit bulls unleashed. With success comes complications however and Shawn ends up fighting not only for money but his whole future — which suddenly is very much at stake.
WHO’S IN IT?
Rising young heartthrob Channing Tatum’s (Step Up) raw star power blasts through the screen as Shawn a role that thankfully calls for more complexity than just acting with his fists. Opposite Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard’s (Hustle & Flow) Harvey he steps up his game and the two play off each other with ease searching for ways to lift what is basically an action vehicle into something more emotionally involving and Rocky-esque. Certainly the highlights are still the intense and brutal fight sequences but because Tatum invests more than just one note into his portrayal of a guy trying to work his way up from the streets into a better life we are behind him all the way. In a case of a Zulay playing another Zulay Zulay Henao is sweet and appealing as a girl Shawn starts dating between bouts while Brian White is menacing and slippery as Evan Hailey a key rival and protégé of Shawn’s own estranged father. Also of note is Altagracia Guzman who has a couple of very funny scenes as Zulay’s disapproving grandmother.
The heart-stopping realism of the bare-knuckle fighting is refreshingly free of cinematic trickery and CGI assistance. It’s raw and packs real punch particularly during a sequence in which Shawn faces a formidable martial arts opponent but also in the climactic bout with Hailey. And fortunately there are some nice twists along the way that keep this flick from drifting into complete predictability. Director Dito Montiel who previously made the Sundance award-winner A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (also with Tatum) knows the New York street scene well.
Although richly entertaining the film could have benefitted from a deeper look into this forbidden world of underground human fighting which hasn’t been explored much on-screen beyond the very unique take of David Fincher’s acerbic Fight Club.
Aside from the powerful fisticuffs on constant display it has to be Shawn’s first encounter with Zulay’s grandmother when he arrives unannounced for dinner. It’s priceless stuff serving to humanize him and ramp his score way up on the likeability meter.
Give credit to the filmmakers for the simplicity of the name. Fighting tells you everything you need to know.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Multiplex. Like any boxing match it’s more fun to watch with a crowd.
You don’t need to have seen 8 Mile and Get Rich or Die Tryin' to know how Rob (Omarion) plans to escape a possible life of crime in the South Bronx. Yes he wants to make like Enimem and 50 Cent. Only Rob decides to steals some pricey rims so he can russle up the fee to enter a rap contest. Too bad Rob targets the car belonging to local gangster Electric (The Fuguees’ Pras). So a fearful Rob flees to Puerto Rico to hide out with the musician father (Giancarlo Esposito) he’s not seen since his diaper days. But you’re crazy if you think Rob wants some father-and-son face time. He’s far more interested in smoking dope with stepbrother Javi (Victor Rasuk) and checking out the island’s vibrant Reggaeton scene. Rob digs the fusion of reggae and hip hop so much that he ends up jamming with Javi. And their demo soon falls into the hands of an American record executive Jeffrey (James McCaffrey) thanks to Rob’s new crush dance instructor C.C. (Zulay Henao). So Rob and Javi—along with C.C.—head to New York hoping to make their bling-filled dreams come. Only Electric’s waiting for Rob … Someone get B2K back together quickly. As a solo act Omarion’s got no game. He strolls through Feel the Noise with a permanent scowl on his face. Perhaps this is his way of making Rob seem all street. Unfortunately he looks like he's suffering from brain freeze as a result of eating one too many piraguas. And as a rapper his rhymes are weak and his delivery colorless. As the levelheaded Javi the charming Victor Rasuk brings much personality to a role that requires him to be DJ Jazzy Jeff to Omarion’s Fresh Prince. Henao looks good on the dancefloor but nowhere else. A graceful Giancarlo Esposito adds a touch of class to the predictable proceedings though Feel the Noise wastes his time and talent. He’s denied any opportunity to convince us that all will be right between the gulit-ridden father and his estranged son. Maybe it’s because Feel the Noise seems more intrigued by James McCaffrey’s silver-tongued record executive’s courting of C.C.. As hard as he tries the low-key McCaffrey fails from the start to make his kingmaker anything other than just another music-biz slimeball. So you’re left counting down the minutes until McCaffrey tries to have his wicked way with C.C. Come on Feel the Noise? Director Alejandro Chomski certainly doesn’t. He brings no flair or imagination to the countless dance scenes set inside Puerto Rico’s hippest nightclubs. Instead he just drools over the scantilty clad hotties who bump and grind to Reggaeton’s lavicious and infectious Latin beats. Maybe Chomski didn’t bothered to watch Step Up Stomp the Yard or You Got Served to see how he could distinguish Feel the Noise from these other dance-fever fantasies. Even the musical performances—be they rap or Reggaeton—lack vitality. Really you’d expect former Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez to demand more from Chomski and his choreographers. Then again it’s hard to tell how much time and energy Lopez devoted to Feel the Noise. It clearly affords her a chance to pay tribute to her Puerto Rican roots. Too bad you never come away from any sense of what life is like in Puerto Rico even as seen through the eyes of an American. Maybe Feel the Noise could have been more compelling had it focused somewhat on Rob’s relationship with his father but there’s surprisingly very little in the way of bonding between father and son. Guess it’s more important to get your Reggaeton on than it is to get to know your family.