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'All About The Benjamins'

Cube 'n Epps Buddies are the best thing about 'The Benjamins'

Friday, March 08, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

While it qualifies in every way as an action film, "All About the Benjamins" is really all about Ice Cube and Mike Epps, who co-starred in the comedy "Next Friday," finding a new venue for their cut-up antics -- a buddy film that replaces pot smoking with punching and trades in South Central and the Los Angeles burbs for a fancier address.

 
 
'All About
The Benjamins'

RATING: R for strong language, pervasive violence and brief sexuality.

STARRING: Ice Cube, Mike Epps.

DIRECTOR: Kevin Bray.

WEB SITE: www.benjamins
movie.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

Set in a Miami where the grit co-exists with the glamour, "All About the Benjamins" casts Cube (who co-wrote the film with Ronald Lang and co-produced it, too) as Bucum Jackson. That's pronounced "book 'em," which is no coincidence because he's a bounty hunter. Epps is one of his regular collars, a two-bit street hustler named Reggie Wright.

With Bucum hot on his trail, Reggie stumbles upon two other people on the lam -- Ramose (Roger Guenveur Smith) and Ursula (Carmen Chaplin), who are fleeing after pulling a diamond heist that has left several people dead. Pretty soon, the mastermind of the theft, Williamson (Tommy Flanagan), is looking for Reggie, who gets an unexpected ally in Bucum. Tired of working for peanuts, the bounty hunter sees this case as his opportunity to strike it rich.

There's absolutely nothing original about all this, and much that is brutal -- the killings, the fisticuffs, the language and even a scene of torture that is played for laughs -- the so-called "good guys" are literally turning the screws on one of the bad guys.

But Cube and Epps display a chemistry that make the movie watchable. Cube will never be mistaken for a stand-up comic but when he drops the Mr. T tough-guy persona and allows himself to lighten up a bit -- even flashing a winning smile once or twice -- he reminds you how credible he can be (and has been, in better movies like "Three Kings" and "Boyz 'n the Hood").

Epps spends much of his time clowning around, but when his Reggie gets serious he penetrates Bucum's bubble, gets under his skin and finds his human side, if only briefly.

The guys get good support from the ladies in this one: Eva Mendes as Reggie's woman, Gina, and Valarie Rae Miller as Pam, who works at the office where Bucum is employed and keeps pestering him about helping out on his cases. She finally gets her chance, along with Gina, and they acquit themselves well enough.

The villains, on the other hand, are mostly annoying and Williamson simply looks ridiculous with scars curving across his face from both ends of his mouth.

First-time feature director Kevin Bray, a veteran of (you guessed it) music videos, tends to make the action scenes confusing with his quick cuts, some of which are so quick that it looks like he left out a few frames.

That's just one more reason to concentrate on the buddy scenes.

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