- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

"All About the Benjamins," whose title alludes to engravings of Benjamin Franklin on currency, pretty much revels in race-conscious bluster and trashiness.
Rapper-filmmaker Ice Cube, who shares a screenwriting credit, plays a bounty hunter for a Miami bail bond agency in this comic crime thriller. Mike Epps is one of his targets, a petty thief. The two become sidekicks in the aftermath of a jewel robbery.
Ice Cube is introduced stalking bail jumpers in a trailer park near Miami. Somewhat miraculously, he survives a flurry of encounters with residents who seem to be armed and maniacal, obliging him to crash through several windows before bagging his prey.
The movie's novice director, Kevin Bray, seems to shoot or delegate action sequences so haphazardly that the movie never exhibits a well-engineered and coherent chase or struggle. Every camera setup remains askew and every edit an ill-timed botch.
Ice's bounty hunter is named Bucum (pronounced "Book 'Em") Jackson. Free-lancing for an irritable bail bondsman, he aspires to start his own private eye agency, preferably with the collaboration of office distraction Pam (Valarie Rae Miller).
A chance encounter with Mr. Epps as parolee and swindler Reggie Wright precipitates near-fatal encounters with a robbery gang of hazily Euro-trash extraction, bossed by an Irish scarface called Tommy Flanagan (Robert Williamson). Although Bucum collars the elusive, voluble Reggie, he is persuaded to join him in targeting more dangerous criminals for much larger stakes.
Mr. Epps makes Reggie a whirlwind of ranting, complaining and insulting remarks. Some of the insults wander curiously outside the boundaries of the plot and common decency. For example, there are swipes at Christopher Reeve, Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio that come way out of left field.
Mr. Epps seems to be demonstrating that it's feasible to update all the craven, evasive characteristics that were once denounced in the caricatures projected by vintage black comedians.
I'm not sure if he is luckier in his time frame or his technique, but it's amusing to see him revive the Sancho Panza tradition in a personality as emphatic and rudely colloquial as Reggie Wright.
The possibility that something is right with Reggie, despite his mercenary outlook and rap sheet, is reinforced by Eva Mendes as a firecracker girlfriend called Gina.
The performers share a slapstick highlight simulating bedroom delirium while overreacting to the realization that they possess a winning lottery ticket, promptly lost to rationalize an additional game of hide-and-seek with the bad guys.
It's an open question whether the more promising partnership is Ice Cube with Mr. Epps or Mr. Epps with Miss Mendes, but I suspect the latter.


*1/2
TITLE: "All About the Benjamins"
RATING: R (Frequent profanity and comic vulgarity; occasional graphic violence, with mingled sadistic and facetious touches; fleeting simulations of intercourse)
CREDITS: Directed by Kevin Bray. Screenplay by Ronald Lang and Ice Cube. Cinematography by Glen MacPherson. Production design by J. Mark Herrington. Music by Michael Murphy.
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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