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Turn It Up

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Turn It Up

Starring: Prakazrel Michel, Vondie Curtis-Hall
Director: Robert Adetyui
Rated: R
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Drama, Music

*Also starring: Ja Rule, Patricia Velasquez, John Ralston, Tamala Jones

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

If you want to know how Blacks have been treated by Whites in the music industry, you'd look for a revival of August Wilson's play, "Ma Rainey"s Black Bottom," set in 1927 in a rundown recording studio in Chicago. The drama involves a White owner of a recording company and her White manager plus Ma Rainey, a legendary blues singer who is due to cut new sides of old favorites. The play won the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle Award for its portrayal of rage, racism, and the self-hate that racism and exploitation breeds.

If you want to know how stupid a movie can be, take in "Turn It Up," Robert Adetuyi's lame attempt to expose, in part, the roadblocks faced by an excellent hip-hop artist when the only way he sees to raise the money needed to cut an album is to take part reluctantly in criminal activities with his manager.

A film with zero crossover appeal and limited allure even for the targeted audience of boyz in the 'hood, "Turn It Up" plays through every cliche imaginable with its clunky dialogue highlighting a basically good guy, Diamond (Pras) who lives in Brooklyn's East New York projects and hopes for a debut CD that will break him out. He is aided by his old friend Gage (Ja-Rule), who is such a great buddy that anything he might steal, any influence he might have, he is willing to use for the benefit of his pal. Since Diamond is aware of his friend's devotion, he is willing to be dragged into Gage's world of drug dealing, robbing, even tolerating the man's murders.

This good-friend bad-friend cliche--most recently used in the arthouse movie "Orfeu" about a great musician who remains devoted to his old drug-dealing buddy in the Brazilian favelas of Rio--is just the beginning of the overdone motifs. Diamond's dad (Vondie Curtis Hall) wants to set his son straight, but he's a flawed character as well having abandoned the family some time back. There's more. Diamond has a girl friend (Tamala Jones), who, like Dad, is lobbying to put her man on the straight-and-narrow path but-- all together now--SHE'S PREGNANT! What's a poor guy gonna do?

Filmed in New York and Toronto, "Turn It Up" does not even enjoy an exotic Caribbean locale as did another turkey, Chris Browne's "Third World Cop," and it sure as heck has no-one who possesses the charisma that Sam Jackson gives to the sizzling remake of "Shaft." If anything will draw the targeted audience, the special ingredient would be the prominence of Prakazrel Pras Michel, a Haitian-American rapper from the group called The Fugees, and Ja Rule, from the group Cash Money Click. Of course the soundtrack is loaded with hip-hop performed by such artists as Tasha Scott, D-Fuse and Rapper Noyd while the dialogue is equally freighted with "shut the f*** up" and the like.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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