The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.
Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) thought she had the perfect life with lawyer husband Charles (Steve Harris): a big house lots of creature comforts and a stable--albeit staid--marriage. But Helen's world shatters when Charles tells her on the eve of their 18th wedding anniversary that he wants a divorce and literally kicks her out of their spacious mansion to make room for another woman. Devastated she runs to her beloved pot-smokin' gun-totin' grandmother Madea (Tyler Perry) who lets Helen know she's a proud beautiful black woman who nonetheless should whoop the bastard's ass. As hurt as she is Helen really just wants to pick up the pieces and move on if she can. She finds guidance and empowerment from her family and friends including new friend Orlando (Shemar Moore) a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker whose sweet and sincere ways more than help Helen get through her pain. And he cooks too. Really there's no contest.
The main cast members aptly portray their roles formulaic as they are. Kimberly Elise (The Manchurian Candidate) as the grievously wronged wife has the toughest job trying to convey all the crazy mixed-up feelings Helen has for the ex-husband while trying to jumpstart her life. Steve Harris (TV's The Practice) as the callous husband and Shemar Moore (TV's The Young and the Restless) as the too-good-to-be-true suitor represent the two opposites sides of the coin. Even Cicely Tyson makes an appearance as Helen's invalid mother who seems just a little too healthy to be in a nursing home. But it's Tyler Perry who turns out to be the true mad black woman. The film comes alive when he's onscreen either playing the outrageous Madea--complete with wig makeup and padding--or Madea's brother Joe a lecherous old coot. Perry even gets to play it straight as Helen's kindly cousin Brian who has a junkie for a wife (played by Tamara Taylor with the usual vacant twitchy neediness). It would have been a long hour and a half without him.
Perry obviously writes from the heart having struggled through his younger years to become a well-known playwright. And with music video director Darren R. Grant at the helm Diary of a Mad Black Woman has all the best intentions. It's certainly a buoyant portrait of African-American life and culture that also speaks to anyone who has had to grapple with betrayal and hurt at the hands of those they love. But the stage-trained Perry somehow misses the subtleties of writing for film. Diary doesn't know what kind of genre it wants to be jumping from raucous comedy á la Big Momma's House to mind-numbing drama á la Waiting to Exhale. The characters don't have any complexities and are drawn very black or white. It also takes an awfully long time for our heroine to figure out what direction she's going to take when we could tell her in the first 30 minutes as to whom she should end up with. In the meantime we must endure several melodramatic set pieces filled with elaborate speeches about revenge love relationships redemption religion and all that which are meant to hit us hard with their poignancy. Perry might consider keeping the highfalutin writing for the stage and think about an acting career in film.
January 31, 2003 5:02am EST
Described as "a contemporary Western on wheels " Biker Boyz tells the tale of underground motorcycle clubs in California one specifically called the Black Knights. The group's leader is a tough undefeated racer named Smoke (Laurence Fishburne) also known as the "King of Cali." Kid (Derek Luke) meanwhile is a young rider trying to work his way up the Black Knight ladder. But when his father (Eriq La Salle) Smoke's mechanic gets killed in a race Kid's ambition is to start a rival gang and become the new King of Cali. One "burn rubber not your soul" tattoo later Kid and his pals Stuntman (Brendan Fehr) and Primo (Rick Gonzalez) start the Biker Boyz gang and the world better look out because they make their own rules. Good grief--this story couldn't be less gripping if it tried. Despite throwing in a paternal plot twist Biker Boyz fails to engage because its protagonists Smoke and Kid are so damn unlikeable. Moviegoers expecting great crotch-rocket action sequences will instead be bombarded with lots of T&A.
The most staggering thing about Biker Boyz is how they managed to get so many stars to sign on. We're talking Fishburne Luke Orlando Jones and Djimon Hounsou all of whom seem to have gorged themselves at the all-you-can-eat testosterone buffet prior to filming. Fishburne (The Matrix) plays his character Smoke so stiffly his more tender scenes come off as absurd. A post-coital cuddle with onscreen lover Queenie (former Cosby Show kid Lisa Bonet) for example plays out coldly rather than passionately. Luke (Antwone Fisher) doesn't fare any better as Kid who is so angry and venomous that his tear-shedding scenes lose all their effect. Orlando Jones manages to churn out a good performance as Black Knight member Soul Train. A lawyer by day Jones' character is the only one that doesn't seem to have a massive chip on his shoulder--or a bone to pick with the rest of the universe.
Biker Boyz is based on an article written by freelance journalist Michael Gougis for the now-defunct Los Angeles New Times. While Gougis' factual feature probably made for a riveting read director/writer Reggie Rock Bythewood (Dancing in September) fails to transform it into an engaging fictionalized screenplay. In fact not even the film's eye candy--all those Japanese sport bikes and chromed-out American cruisers--make this film entertaining. For the triple-digit-speed street racing sequences Bythewood uses special effects straight out of the Japanese animated cartoon Speed Racer including blurry tunnel vision scenes and tons of speedometer shots. There are a couple of really flashy stunt scenes but there aren't enough of them to carry the flick forcing moviegoers to focus on the lame story and its sad sack of disconnected characters. In fact the story and its characters' plights are so insubstantial that the audience at the screening I attended laughed out loud at what were supposed to be some of the film's more poignant moments.