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'Held Up'

Despite talented cast, 'Held Up' is 91 minutes of comic monotony

Friday, May 12, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If you pay $8 to see "Held Up," you may feel like you've been the victim of a holdup or hostage-taking -- just like in the movie. It's a comedy that takes an appealing cast and fritters their talent and your time.

'Held Up'

RATING: PG-13 for language, violence, sensuality.

STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Nia Long.

DIRECTOR: Steve Rash




"Held Up" stars Jamie Foxx as a Chicagoan named Michael Dawson who is traveling through Arizona with his girlfriend when an unexpected bathroom break leads him to lose his fiancee Rae, his newly purchased vintage car and (almost) his life.

Rae (Nia Long) can't believe Michael spent $5,000 on a car and got an 8-track tape player, which plays Tony Orlando and Dawn's rendition of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree." But a stop at the Sip & Zip convenience store unwittingly reveals that Michael didn't pay $5,000 for the '57 classic; he paid $15,000, which was the money they were saving for a down payment on a house.

An outraged Rae decides to head for the Las Vegas airport with a bunch of cowboys who are happy to oblige. Within minutes, Michael realizes his keys are locked inside the car and when a teen offers to help him open the door, the so-called good Samaritan steals the car.

Not long after, three Mexicans come into the convenience store to rob it and before the afternoon is over, one of them is left and he's holding a motley bunch of hostages. In addition to Michael, the group includes the clerk; a know-it-all biker who spends his time reading magazines for free; a kid who's addicted to the game in the store; and a shy woman whose purse proves to be stuffed with condoms.

Michael finds himself helping to negotiate with the sheriff (Barry Corbin) who is none too happy at being called away from a state championship baseball game. Before all is said and done, the Sip & Zip draws lookieloos in lawn chairs, a TV satellite truck, a SWAT team and the usual surprising, sympathetic revelations about the hostage-taker (Eduardo Yanez).

"Held Up" is poorly paced, often claustrophobic -- most of the action takes place at the Sip & Zip -- and generally not funny. Two running jokes revolve around the white locals mistaking Michael for famous black men, including Puff Daddy. Foxx gets off a couple of wisecracks about things black people don't do (including getting lost in the forest, an apparent reference to "The Blair Witch Project") and labors overtime trying to make this work.

He can't. Long, whose part actually is rather small, can't. And neither can two old friends from the late, great "Northern Exposure": Corbin and John Cullum, who runs the desert convenience store.

"Held Up" was written by Jeff Eastin, creator of the UPN show "Shasta," which seems headed for cancellation. It was directed by former music video director Steve Rash, whose credits include "The Buddy Holly Story," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Queens Logic."

At one point, the sheriff asks one of his men, "How long's this gonna take?" I kept wondering the same thing myself. Even 91 minutes proved too long.

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