A jewel heist. A no-nonsense bounty hunter and a trash-talking con
man who team up to stop the malicious criminals. Bullet-riddled car
chases through the streets of Miami, and boat chases on the waters
of the beach. If the culmination of these descriptions sounds awfully
familiar to over two dozen movies you've seen in the past, you'd be right.
"All About the Benjamins," directed by Kevin Bray, makes no apparent
attempt to break this cliched premise. A buddy action-comedy without
a single funny moment, and boring, B-grade action setpieces, the only
notable difference between this and "Rush Hour" or "Lethal Weapon"
is the increase in extreme, gory violence.
The by-the-book plotline goes like this: while freelance bounty hunter
Bucum (Ice Cube) is chasing con man Reggie (Mike Epps) to arrest him,
they inadvertently stumble upon a deadly diamond heist formulated
by the maniacal Williamson (Tommy Flanagan). Bucum, who dreams of
starting his own business, sees solving this crime as a way of gaining
respect from his colleagues, while Reggie simply is after his lost
wallet, which holds a winning $60-million lottery ticket. They grudgingly
team up to work the case, and become friends in the process.
Stars Ice Cube (2001's "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars") and Mike
Epps (2001's "How High") are no Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker (or,
for that matter, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover). Cube is so angry-faced
all the time that he looks more like he's constipated than trying
to be comical, while Epps is merely unamusing. Together, they make
for an oh-so-tiresome crime-fighting team that, on the basis of their
dim personalities, deserve each other.
Because "All About the Benjamins" does not succeed as a comedy, an
action movie, or even a modest entertainment, the film plays itself
out without giving a reason for why viewers should even want to invest
99 minutes of their time. Bucum and Reggie are one-dimensional ciphers
throughout, and there is no believability in their evolving friendship.
Meanwhile, the villains are strictly cut-rate nasties who are evil
incarnate (at one point, Williamson shoots his female companion and
girlfriend in the head for no reason except to make the climax bloodier).
Screenwriters Ronald Lang and Ice Cube have seemingly stolen spare
parts from a whole lot of superior movies without putting any thought
or intelligence into it.
The only fun that comes out of the picture is seen through the treatment
of the two central female counterparts. Eva Mendes (2001's "Training
Day"), as Reggie's sassy girlfriend, and Valarie Rae Miller (TV's
"Dark Angel"), as Bucum's sassy secretary, appreciably get in on the
action and aren't treated as stock trophies with breasts. Both actresses
play "sassy" very well. Poor former Brat Packer Anthony Michael Hall,
however, is relegated to a one-scene cameo that is over even before
his name appears in the opening credits.
"All About the Benjamins" is stylishly edited by Suzanne Hines, and
cinematographer Glen MacPherson makes Miami Beach look pretty enough.
The same ultimately cannot be said for much else found in the film.
Tedious and hackneyed, you would have thought that New Line Cinema
could have invested a few more benjamins into getting a workable script
before filming commenced. They didn't.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman