Set It Off

Bomb Rating: 

Gray's movie is a cross between "Heat" and "My Dinner with Andre." If you're going to make an action film, make an action film.

This film may not be interesting in and of itself, but its lack of widespread distribution certainly is. One can only presume that theaters are afraid to show "Set it Off" because it will convince African-Americans that robbing banks is a heroic thing to do. Meanwhile, white Americans everywhere are working themselves into a frenzy over films like "Ransom," imagining a day when they too can be vigilantes and make the world safe for rich, white people.

The film follows four young African-American women as their lives deteriorate and they take out their frustrations on the Los Angeles banking system. They are helped by the fact that the richest bank in the city keeps its safe in the middle of the floor, wide open, for everyone to see. So much for the days when bank robbers had to actually work to get to their loot. Now you can wander into the bank with a big vacuum cleaner and suck the money out when the teller isn't looking.

Director F. Gary Gray wields a series of unpleasant events to persuade his characters that bank robbing is a good career option for oppressed African-American women. First, Frankie (Vivica Fox) is unfairly fired from her bank teller job. Then, Stony's (Jada Pinkett's) brother is gunned down by L.A.P.D. officers who forgot to take their Ritalin. Finally, Tisean's (Kimberly Elise) little boy is taken away by social services after he precociously gulps down some cleaning fluid. Joining them is Cleo (Queen Latifah), who doesn't have anything specific happen to her -- she, like the audience, is just plain bored.

Gray's movie is a cross between "Heat" and "My Dinner with Andre." If you're going to make an action film, make an action film. Stony and the gang do too much talking and too little bank robbing. I, for one, would much rather watch an action-packed robbery scene than sit catatonic as Stony babbles endlessly with Blair Underwood, the African-American version of Keanu Reeves.

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