Two Can Play That Game

2001, Movie, R, 90 mins

Review

TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME
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The notion of "tough love" is tested and put through a battery — ten, to be exact — of rigorous comedic paces. First-time director Mark Brown delivers a sassy romantic battle of the sexes with a refreshing African-American slant. Beautiful, confident, twentysomething advertising dynamo Shante Smith (Vivica A. Fox) is a born fixer-upper, with an uncanny knack for solving problems. She's got things covered, whether she's plotting strategies to mend her friends' frequently broken hearts and wounded egos or troubleshooting a weak ad campaign. Doling out tried-and-true advice to her lovelorn girlfriends Diedre (Mo'Nique, of TV's The Parkers), Karen (Wendy Raquel Robinson) and Tracye (Tamala Jones) comes easily, and while sorting through her friends' man troubles, Shante makes her own love connection with attorney Keith Fenton (Morris Chestnut), a rising legal star and bona fide hunk. Shante is lucky and she knows it: She has a fabulous job, a tightly-knit group of female friends and, above all, a good, honest and faithful man. But her luck is just about to change. Keith breaks a dinner date, saying he has to work late (uh-huh). Shante and her posse bust Keith putting in some overtime with a fetching female office colleague — at Keith and Shante's favorite restaurant, no less — and the following day Shante launches her ten-day retaliatory blitzkrieg (the film was shot under the title "How to Make Your Man Behave in 10 Days or Less"). Speaking directly to the audience (a device used reasonably effectively throughout the film), Shante opines: "The first time your man messes up, no matter how minor the infraction, punish him. Punish him hard." And boy, does she ever. By day four Keith — still reeling from Shante's direct mental strikes — rallies and shows he's a player, too. Aided by buddy and fellow attorney Tony (Anthony Anderson), Keith temporarily derails Shante's plan to get him back by mounting a counterattack. Keith, you see, has a powerful secret weapon he uses to heighten the game's intensity: Conny Spalding (Gabrielle Union), Shante's arch rival. Shante must now scramble to one-up Keith if she has any hope of winning him back. Director Brown (who also penned the script, replete with racy language and blue humor) injects these well-worn plot devices with a humorous dose of soul. But his secret weapon is the winning ensemble cast (look for a R&B star Bobby Brown in a cameo), led by screen gem Fox: She's got game, and then some. leave a comment --Stephen Miller

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