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All About the Benjamins

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: All About the Benjamins

Starring: Ice Cube, Mike Epps
Director: Kevin Bray
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: March 2002
Genres: Action, Comedy

*Also starring: Tommy Flanagan, Anthony Michael Hall, Eva Mendes, Valarie Rae Miller, Jodi Lyn, Anthony Giaimo, Carmen Chaplin, Roger Guenveur Smith

Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4

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

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