Featuring More Than Fifty Classic Hip-Hop Artists, Most of Whom I Don't Recognize
This is, I know, a very improbable comfort film for me, but there we are. Honestly, I know it so well that I was able to wander in and out of the room, cooking dinner and so forth, without really missing much. I originally bought it on VHS from someone who wrote blurbs for a living and had a whole slew of the things, which she was illegally selling at a yard sale. It was cheap and had Denis Leary, so I bought it. Ever since then, I have had to explain to people going through my movie collection that I do actually watch it, and I watch it because it's worth watching. It amuses me, and it doesn't require much in the way of thinking. Yeah, okay, it kind of nudges you in the ribs in places to recognize various of the bit players, which I still don't, and that always irritates me. However, it does actually manage to have an intelligent plot buried under there. Yeah, it surprised me, too.
Doctor Dré and Ed Lover work for Nick Crawford (Jim Moody), who owns a barbershop in Harlem. They are terrible at their job to the extent that they are losing Nick money, so he forces them to go apply for the police force, which is making a concerted effort to hire minorities. They try not to get in, and indeed Doctor Dré shouldn't, given that whole "passing the physical" thing. However, they do, and they become patrolmen. And then, the barbershop is blown up and Nick is killed. Since Nick was basically a father to him, and since they are cops, they naturally decide that the best thing for them to do is try to find the murderer. After all, that's what people do in the movies, right? At first, they work within the police, but eventually, they're fired for trying to be detectives when they are, in fact, patrolmen. They find their way into a web of smuggling and land deals, where they are way over their heads, given that they're bad cops.
Actually, the whole "patrolmen don't investigate murders" thing is surprisingly realistic, as is the fact that they lose their jobs, instead of just being threatened with it. It's also true that investigating a crime in which you're personally invested doesn't always end well. If they were real cops, they would be required to step aside even if they were detectives. You need to have a certain level of detachment in order to be effective, a level of disinterest. "My father figure was blown up, oh, and it turns out shot as well" is not disinterested. It's natural to want to go chasing after the killer, and pretty much everyone acknowledges that, even the incredibly wired Sergeant Cooper (Leary), though he's still going on about doughnuts. On TV or in the movies, anyone even vaguely associated with law enforcement is involved in all aspects of crime solving. Within the world of this movie, the detectives do detective work, and the patrolmen don't. It's rare, but it happens here.
On the other hand, there are several plots and subplots which don't make any sense. I don't care what strings you pull; someone Doctor Dré's weight isn't going to make it into the NYPD. Yeah, I know; we need him to in order for the plot to work, and you're just supposed to go along with it. No big deal. However, it kind of is. Also, I don't think you're allowed to use a name you just kind of started calling yourself on your police force application. What did he put on his W2? The smuggling and gentrification plot works and works well, but the denouement is clearly intended to just be a [i]Beverly Hillbillies[/i] joke. Which, okay. It's just that the ending is by extension not as intelligent as the rest of the movie. It's a disappointment. The juxtaposition of these two men and a job on the force probably couldn't support a good ending, but there are a lot of other ways the movie could have gone. Better ways. It just kind of feels like it runs out of steam, damaging a film which would otherwise be one of the best obscure movies of the '90s.
Okay, there's one other thing. Doctor Dré and Ed Lover are listed on the box as going for Abbott and Costello. Roger, in his review, compared them to both Cheech and Chong and Laurel and Hardy. However, there are quite a few moments where they seem to be a bit Amos and Andy. There's a fair amount of goggling at the camera. They don't actually roll their eyes at any point, but it's clear they want to. Or are on the verge of doing so. There are quite a few points in the movie where I really think Ed Lover shows some really talent, though Doctor Dré isn't allowed to do much but play the clown. However, I think the box office failure of this movie pretty well cinched that Ed Lover wasn't going to have a chance to do much more acting. Indeed, while there are three people from this who went on to have decent acting careers, they probably only have twenty minutes on camera among them. I wouldn't have even known Terence Howard was in the movie at all had IMDB not helpfully pointed out that it's his film debut.