All About The Benjamins

2002, Movie, R, 95 mins

Review

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS
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Benjamins ($100 dollar bills, the ones with Mr. Franklin on the front) drive this comic crime thriller in the 48 HRS mode, which pits mismatched partners — a stone-cold bounty hunter and a petty con man — against a gang of ruthless diamond thieves. Miami-based Bucum (pronounced "book 'em") Jackson (Ice Cube) wants out of the bounty hunting game — there's too much shooting and too little money in it. He'd like to open his own private investigation firm, but needs a stake. Reggie Wright (Mike Epps) is a genial grifter going for the short money and trying to stay out of jail; Bucum has picked him up so many times they're practically an item. But when Bucum tries to collar Reggie one more time, things take an unexpected turn. Fleeing from Bucum, Reggie hides in the back of a van belonging to Ursula (Carmen Chaplin) and Julian (Roger Guenveur Smith), who've just murdered five people and heisted $20 million worth of diamonds. Reggie escapes but loses his wallet, containing what turns out to be a winning $60 million lottery ticket he bought for live-in honey Gina (Eva Mendes). Reggie has to get the lottery ticket back, the thieves need to find him and shut him up, and Bucum is hell-bent on busting Reggie and paying back the jewel thieves for taking potshots at him during their getaway. So Reggie and Bucum become reluctant allies against Williamson (Tommy Flanagan), the smooth-talking mastermind behind the robbery and one cold-hearted son of a bitch. Formulaic and a little slapdash, this picture is first and foremost a showcase for the rapport between straight man Ice Cube and motor-mouth Epps, last seen together in NEXT FRIDAY (1999). Their performances are loose-limbed and engaging, and most of the supporting cast follows suit; Flanagan's sputtering-psycho bad guy is the exception, though he stops just short of the kind of hyperbolic depravity that smacks of comic-book super-villainy. Oddly, the most appealing thing about the movie is that in an age of ever-escalating special effects, it's refreshingly low-tech, more like a '70s action movie than a modern-day one. Entire city blocks aren't blowing up right and left, no one's rappelling down the sides of skyscrapers or somersaulting off hydroelectric dams, the car chases are exercises in stunt driving rather than computer-generated imagery, and the gunplay is short-lived and to the point. Sometime less is more. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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