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All About the Benjamins

  All About the Benjamins
Ice Cube's string of good days without the AK is about to end.

© 2002, New Line
All Rights Reserved

Right before the opening credits hit in "All About The Benjamins" (IMDb listing), there is a moment where star/writer/producer Ice Cube takes a tazer to a man's genitals. It's rather appropriate, because if you're not a fan of Mr. Cube, "Benjamins" will feel about as comfortable to sit through as that tazer's sting.

"Benjamins" stars Ice Cube as bounty hunter Bucum Jackson, sent on assignment to recover a bail jumper named Reggie Wright (Mike Epps). Reggie is in deep trouble. Not only did he witness a diamond theft and murder, but he also left his wallet—containing a winning lottery ticket—at the scene of the crime. Reggie's only help is Bucum, but the grumpy bounty hunter wants nothing to do with the felon, that is until $20 million in stolen diamonds becomes up for grabs.

I'll give him this much: Ice Cube certainly knows his audience. "All About The Benjamins" is as familiar Cube terrain as a movie can get, filled to the breaking point with the fireballs, profanity and ad-libbed laughs that made his previous two "Friday" films such hits. However, this time out, Cube and his team are trying to resuscitate the buddy film genre, long since laid to rest in the land of straight-to-video releases. "Benjamins" is an old-school, Joel Silveresque actioner, circa 1991. It delightfully traffics in the business of over-the-top villains, gorgeous females, constant shoot-outs and one explosion after another. Long gone are the weed and sex jokes of the "Friday" films, here replaced with bullets and a bigger budget.

Somehow, first time director Kevin Bray makes this work, if only slightly. A highly energized, stylishly directed film that actually features a perfect, mood-setting opening credit sequence, "Benjamins" can at least serve as eye candy if nothing else. The editing has no pulse, and the photography isn't all that interesting, but "Benjamins" still moves. It's an action film without a brain, but the two charismatic stars help it along, often tricking the viewer into enjoying this mess a lot more then should be allowed.

What the people really have come to see is the reteaming of Cube and Epps. Fresh from their inspired work in "Next Friday," the duo returns here in "Benjamins" with the same easy back and forth comic touch. Think of them as the urban Hope and Crosby. While Ice Cube is his typical stoic self, Epps takes the comedy baton and runs like hell with it. Epps is hilarious in "Benjamins," making even the most painful aspects of the production seem like cherry pie with his alert comic timing and his gift for improvisation. This gift is so beloved by the filmmakers that they keep letting the camera roll on Epps as he does his free-flowing thing with the screenplay. Normally, a very destructive method to wring a laugh. But with Epps, it works.

Cube and Epps make an impressive comic team, and they make the shamelessly hackneyed "Benjamins" a worthwhile sit for fans of the duo. Everyone else, save your benjamins and stay far away.

Filmfodder Grade: B

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