Showing posts with label Larenz Tate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Larenz Tate. Show all posts

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: "Biker Boyz" a Disappointment

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Biker Boyz (2003)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hours, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language
DIRECTOR: Reggie Rock Blythewood
WRITERS: Craig Fernandez and Reggie Rock Blythewood (based upon a magazine article by Michael Gougis)
PRODUCERS: Stephanie Allain, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Erwin Stoff
EDITORS: Caroline Ross and Terilyn A. Shropshire
COMPOSER: Camara Kambon

ACTION/DRAMA with elements of crime

Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Larenz Tate, Kid Rock, Rick Gonzalez, Meagan Good, Salli Richardson, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Dante Basco, Dion Basco, Tyson Beckford, Kadeem Hardison, and (uncredited) Eriq La Salle

The subject of this movie review is Biker Boyz, a 2003 drama and action movie. The film focuses on underground motor cycle drag racers and was released by DreamWorks Studios.

Biker Boyz probably exists because of the surprising and enormous success of The Fast and the Furious. Heck, the television program, “Fastlane,” probably exists because of Furious, as well as the fact that a popular movie video and film director proposed it.

First, I’ll mention what’s good about the movie. Director Reggie Rock Blythewood uses a lot of really interesting, unique, and visually jarring camera angles and shots. To watch the opening credits is an invigorating experience; it was so cool that I expected even greater things later in the film. Blythewood uses still photography and quick-cut editing to raise the level of excitement and tension in the film, and on many occasions it works…for awhile.

Laurence Fishburne is Smoke, the "King of Cali," a legendary motorcycle racer in California. The Kid (Derek Luke), a former member in training of Smoke’s gang, The Black Knights, wants Smoke’s mythical crown, his racing helmet. Smoke would have to surrender it if he ever lost a face, and he hasn’t in over 25 races. However, bike racing, among the mostly African American bike clubs is hierarchical, a governing board has to vote to let Kid play; he has to earn the right to tackle Smoke. Kid forms a club of his own, The Biker Boyz, and sets about throwing his weight around to get his way. But does the older Smoke, whom Kid views as an enemy, have something to teach the brash, young biker?

Just this last line tells you that what could have been a good racing movie turns into a mush fest. That’s just the tip of the bad. The story of the young up-and-comer challenging a revered leader is familiar, and, when done correctly, can make for an entertaining story. However, as good as Blythewood is with camera work and quick cuts, his sense of storytelling is abominable. Things develop so slowly that the film actually seems to grow longer as it progresses. The problems stem from the relationships between the characters. Every time the film stops to give two characters a chance to connect with each other, the film literally grinds to a halt; you can almost hear the film’s gears crunching and dragging. It becomes deliriously dull, and I mean that it gets so dull that it made me delirious. I was going to walk out, but to be fair, I wanted to see the entire film so that I could properly review it for you, dear reader. Never say that I don’t care for you.

Late in the film, Kid and his mother, Anita (Vanessa Bell Calloway), meet to make up, and the movie stops cold. I was ready for her to just make her apologies and get the heck out of Kid’s apartment so that he could go race. Ms. Calloway’s character had potential, but like all the others, she’s wasted by Blythewood’s inability to tell a story through his characters. As long as he can do tricks with his camera, he’s fine, but the moment people stop to relate to one another, Blythewood is struck dumb.

Biker Boyz has lots of supporting characters, and the actors playing them (Kid Rock, Orlando Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Lisa Bonet, Tyson Beckford) might interest moviegoers. But they would be shocked how listless and dull their favorites are in this surprisingly poor film.

2 of 10

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: "A Man Apart" Focus on Revenge (Happy B'day Vin Diesel)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 59 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Man Apart (2003)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong graphic violence, language, drug content and sexuality
DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray
WRITERS: Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring
PRODUCERS: Bob Degus, Vin Diesel, Vincent Newman, Joey Nittolo, and Tucker Tooley
EDITORS: Bob Brown and William Hoy

DRAMA/ACTION with elements of suspense

Starring: Vin Diesel, Larenz Tate, Gino Silva, George Shaperson, Timothy Olyphant, Jacqueline Obradors, and Juan Fernandez

You can hear the sound of the playa haters cackling and giggling about Vin Diesel maybe not being such a big mega box office star after all. XXX (it made a lot of money, but not a lot of lot of money) was something of a disappointment at the box office and A Man Apart didn’t open well. The haters are the same people who were hanging onto Vin’s jockstrap just last year when he was mackin’ on the cover of GQ, among other magazines. Let’s get this straight before we move on; A Man Apart is a good movie.

Diesel is Sean Vetters, a hot shot/thug officer for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). He and his partner, Demetrius Hicks, go way back to the days when they ran the streets as young men. They help take down an ultra-powerful head of a Mexican drug cartel (Gino Silva), but when that drug lord, Memo Lucero, goes down, a new and more vicious leader, known only as “Diablo,” fills the void. At Diablo’s behest, assassins kill Sean’s wife Stacy (Jacqueline Obradors) in a botched attempt on Sean’s life, and Sean becomes a man on a mission of revenge.

The story of a decorated cop who loses his family to murderous criminals and subsequently goes on a rampage for revenge is a venerable movie tradition. Steven Seagal’s career thrived on this plot for a few years. However, a well-worn sub-genre or tired story idea can get new life in the hands of talented people who can make it an interesting film, and that’s what happens here.

Director F. Gary (The Negotiator, Set It Off) Gray has a good touch with mixing drama and hardcore action. He takes a common idea and breathes life into this film. The action is hot, and the drama is pretty effective, even though it’s nothing new and fresh. Gray can take the most pedestrian idea and spin it into something worth watching; it’s a skill he learned during his days directing music videos.

Once again, the camera loves Diesel, and the screen magnifies his machismo. He doesn’t have to dig deep into the character; indeed, the character only goes deep enough to find the anger and passion needed to fuel the drive for revenge. However, Vin finds that gas and takes it to the limit. He has a convincing mad-on to kill some filthy, people killing drug lords, and he flings it at the screen in a spray of testosterone. We don’t get to see his character go deep undercover and force himself to live a lie in order to ensnare the wicked. This is simple; his character is an excuse to show some ass whipping, rapid gunfire, explosions, fistfights, and manly pissing contests.

Gray and Diesel know what they’re doing. The script doesn’t create richly layered characters; these are all law enforcement stereotypes, and Larenz Tate also does a fine job as the voice of reason in his partner’s life, the good guardian angel speaking soothing platitudes to his homey while revenge’s little devil whispers in Sean’s ear, “Go kick some ass!”

I liked this – not great but good. If you miss it in the theatres, you’ll want to see this good old revenge flick. Vin, as the avenging lawman, is just keeping a venerable movie genre alive in the tradition of Charles Bronson and Steven Seagal.

6 of 10


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: "Waist Deep" is an Effective Crime Thriller (Happy B'day, Tyrese)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 136 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Waist Deep (2006)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and pervasive language
DIRECTOR: Vondie Curtis-Hall
WRITERS: Darin Scott and Vondie Curtis-Hall; from a story by Michael Mahern
PRODUCERS: Tony Brown, Ted Field, Preston L. Holmes, Joe Rosenberg, and Michael Weber
EDITOR: Terilyn A. Shropshire


Starring: Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate, The Game, H. Hunter Hall, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Kasi Lemmons

When he got out of prison, recently paroled ex-con O2 (Tyrese Gibson) told his son, Junior (Henry Hunter Hall) that he’d never leave him again. When Junior is kidnapped during a carjacking, the desperate single father is determined to keep his word, but retrieving his son involves guns, a violation of his parole. When his cousin, Lucky (Larenz Tate), informs him that local gang kingpin, Meat (The Game), has Junior and wants $100,000 in payment for Junior’s return, O2 is ready to get the money anyway he can. Joined by Coco (Meagan Good) a down-on-her-luck, street hustler, O2 embarks on a string of bank holdups and safe-house stickups to get the money, but taking on the vicious Big Meat might be too much for the new Bonnie and Clyde.

In Vondie Curtis-Hall’s urban thriller, Waist Deep, a minor character calls the leads (O2 and Coco) “the new modern day Bonnie and Clyde,” and the film does kind of play at the leads being an urban, hip hop riff on the legendary, real-life crime couple. However, the film has more in common with the 1949 Film-Noir classic, Gun Crazy, which influenced the Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway film, Bonnie and Clyde. Regardless, Waist Deep is a taunt, gritty, gritty urban drama. With the camera, Vondie Curtis-Hall (who is probably still trying to live down directing the Mariah Carey bomb, Glitter) makes social commentary on poverty and crime in inner city Los Angeles. Through his cast and characters, Hall makes slick-looking pulp cinema that is as rough and as razor’s edge as Pulp Fiction, if not as witty and artful.

The cast plays all their cards well. Tyrese Gibson isn’t a great actor, but he’s a quality leading man and is an excellent fit for roles in guy films (bullets, fisticuffs, and action). Meagan Good has come a long way since playing a teen sweetheart on the late Nickelodeon series, “Cousin Skeeter.” She has the body and the instinct to play a bombshell femme fatale, even if her acting chops are shaky. Rapper The Game is terrible and creepy as the monstrous Big Meat; to see this recording artist play the part with so much edge is to believe that he may have acting talent. Larenz Tate remains the consummate character actor, and, as he has since, Menace II Society, shines as a co-star.

Hall and the tightly written script he co-wrote with Darin Scott does falter in the last 10 minutes of the movie, but before that, Hall must have asked that his cast give it all because the actors come as close to perfection as they could come in a film like Waist Deep. It’s a nifty little crime thriller for when a movie lover wants the nasty edge in inner city crime dramas.

6 of 10

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: "Ray" is Still an Incredible Bio Film (Happy B'day, Jamie Foxx)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 222 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Ray (2004)
Running time: 152 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for depiction of drug addiction, sexuality, and some thematic elements
DIRECTOR: Taylor Hackford
WRITERS: James L. White; from a story by Taylor Hackford and James L. White
PRODUCERS: Howard Baldwin, Karen Elise Baldwin, Stuart Benjamin, and Taylor Hackford
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch
Academy Award winner


Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry J. Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine, Aunjanue Ellis, Sharon Warren, C.J. Sanders, Curtis Armstrong, Richard Schiff, Larenz Tate, Kurt Fuller, and Chris Thomas King

Biographical films, or biopics, as they are often called, often disappoint, not because they are so often historically inaccurate to varying degrees, but because they generally desperately try to fit a long life into about two hours and change of movie running time. Ray, director Taylor Hackford’s film about the life of the seminal blues, jazz, rock, and country recording artist, the late Ray Charles, doesn’t suffer from that malady.

Hackford and his co-writer, James L. White, smartly tackle the first two decades or so of Ray Charles’ (Jamie Foxx) career. They treat the story of his tragic childhood, his relationship with his mother Aretha Robinson (Sharon Warren), and the onset of his blindness in childhood as a short fable. In it, a mother teaches her son who is losing his sight to stand on his own feet because the world won’t pity him, and she also teaches him to learn to use his remaining senses after his sight is gone. When the time comes, the mother sends the son on his way to a special school where he can grow his immense musical talents and his gift of superb hearing. The rest of the movie focuses on Ray’s public career, which saw him crossing musical genres and styles with shocking ease to tremendous acclaim and success, and his tumultuous personal life that included infidelity and drug addiction.

Hackford and White understood that Ray Charles was a great man, and their film shows it. Hackford makes excellent use of Charles’ music and gives much time to his creative process and to his explosive live shows, be they in small clubs or large public auditoriums. The writers smartly distill Charles’ life into a few subplots (with his music being the main plot) that they extend throughout the film narrative.

Whereas many biopics seem to hop around a famous person’s life, Ray, with it’s focus on subplots that run the length of the film seems like one stable narrative with a definite beginning, middle, and end. The fact that his infidelity, drug use, creative process, and financial acumen are the focus for the length of the film gives the film the sense of being about one coherent and intact story. Ray’s music is the film, and the subplots follow his musical career giving it character, color, and drama.

As much as Hackford and White deserve all the credit for making a great biopic (one of the few great films about a famous black person), they needed an actor to play Ray Charles without the performance seeming like an imitation or something from a comic skit. Surprisingly, it’s a comedian and comic actor, Jamie Foxx, who takes the role and delivers a work of art. One of the great screen performances of the last two decades, Foxx could have easily and simply done a Ray Charles impersonation (which he may have done before for “In Living Colour,” the early 90’s Fox Network comedy sketch show). Instead, Foxx seems to channel the spirit of the classic Ray Charles and creates a separate, idealized, and fully realized character from whole cloth. Foxx’s performance is so credible that you may never once think that you’re watching an actor play Ray Charles.

For from being downbeat or arty, Ray is indeed a work of art, but most of all, it is an inspiring film that celebrates the life of a great musician by being a celebration of his great music and how he created it all. Awash, in the vibrant life of a performer and filled to the brim with great songs, Ray is a special movie meant for you to enjoy.

9 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jamie Foxx) and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer, and Steve Cantamessa); 4 nominations: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Sharen Davis), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Taylor Hackford), “Best Achievement in Editing” (Paul Hirsch), and “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Taylor Hackford, Stuart Benjamin, and Howard Baldwin)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jamie Foxx) and “Best Sound” (Karen M. Baker, Per Hallberg, Steve Cantamessa, Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, and Bob Beemer); 2 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Craig Armstrong) and “Best Screenplay – Original” (James L. White)

2005 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jamie Foxx); 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy”