According to the Greek legend, there was an innkeeper named Procrustes who was obsessed with having his guests fit in his bed. If his guests were shorter than the length of the bed, he stretched them out until they fit. If they were too tall, then he chopped their feet off.
"All About the Benjamins," directed by Kevin Bray, is a cinematic Procrustean bed. It overextends its constricted script with excessive amounts of strained comedy and hackneyed action, and as a result it winds up sacrificing the proverbial feet of efficient storytelling and character development.
Ice Cube (who co-wrote the screenplay with Ronald Lang) is Bucum Jackson, a Miami bounty hunter who hopes to someday open his own private investigation agency. (In the meantime, he complains about his low-paying assignments while buying $600 tropical fish.) One of his menial jobs includes relentlessly chasing con man Reggie Wright (Mike Epps). On the same day that Reggie wins a $60 million lottery jackpot, he stumbles upon a combination diamond heist and triple homicide while being pursued through city streets and back alleys. He then leaves his wallet - with the winning ticket inside - in the thieves' van. To compound his misery, he is nabbed the next day by Bucum, who expresses interest in his plight only because he sees dollar signs after hearing about the diamonds.
"Benjamins" is a failure on so many levels. It fails as a comedy, a buddy movie, and an action thriller, and it most definitely fails as quality entertainment, relying heavily on endless chase scenes, Epps' grating slapstick routine, and Cube's scowling facade in order to conceal the numerous absurdities and lack of suspense in the plot. Director Bray uses every means possible to (unsuccessfully) liven up the flat action sequences, such as using over half a dozen edits to show a car smashing through a window and unnecessary freeze-frame whenever someone fires a gun, the latter which causes the film to resemble a bad '70s cop show. The foot chases suffer from a combination of slow motion and weak cinematography; why show characters vaulting over a wall in the exact same manner?
I didn't laugh once during the entire picture. The film's idea of jocularity consists of people aggravating a gunshot wound with a screwdriver, pointing a gun at a kid and activating a taser in a man's crotch, not to mention having two old ladies cussing up a storm and grown men engaging in bouts of unintelligible slang-ridden drivel every five minutes. Epps tries in vain to be knock-down riotous in tiresome scenes such as when Reggie horses around in a Bentley and sings loudly off-key while he imitates smoking a joint.
The bad plot spells equally bad performances. Ice Cube has nothing to do here except stare angrily at Epps' overacting in between knocking a few heads. The script is loaded with racist and misogynist stereotypes. In the opening scene, Bucum arrests a redneck bail jumper who has a Confederate flag hanging full-view in his trailer window. The theft ring is led by an abrasive, scar-faced Irishman (Tommy Flanagan) who wears ugly suits and has a thick brogue that becomes a target for parody. At the same time, the "N" word flies left and right. Meanwhile, Bucum's accomplice Pam (Valarie Rae Miller) and Reggie's girlfriend Gina (Eva Mendes) are unfortunately nothing more than armpieces in skimpy outfits who spend time looking offended at their partners' actions.
It's appropriate that a boat storage warehouse plays a significant role in this movie that ends up sinking in an ocean of implausibility. For instance, would a street-smart bail enforcement agent actually team up with an uncooperative loon who deems it necessary to act like a goofball while being pursued by killers? When a handcuffed Reggie falls forward off the top of a boat, he miraculously walks away with both shoulders still intact. After he loses his wallet, he's distressed more about his missing lottery ticket than the fact that the thieves have access to his name and address. Reggie and Bucum get into an altercation in the parking lot of the bad guys' headquarters in a display of sheer incompetence - and in clear view of surveillance cameras. (It also spawns the film's only line that contains a shred of humor: "You bite my nipple again and I'll kill you!")
"Benjamins' " greatest sin, however, is that it's a blatant insult to viewers' intelligence that's encased in a box of cheap laughs, due to the fact that it tries to make heroes out of two greedy individuals who commit murder, assault, burglary, and wrongful imprisonment, among other things, in their pursuit of stolen diamonds that don't even belong to them in the first place - and then treats their mission as if they're participating in some great cause. They're no better than the crooks they're trying to outsmart. Even worse, the filmmakers shamelessly want us to empathize with these guys during an obligatory moment in which they spill their deepest feelings to each other during a lull in the action.
One of the worst films of the year, "All About the Benjamins" will appeal to those who have an affinity for movies with appalling storylines chock full of abysmal dialogue and repugnant characters. The rest of the general population will consider the removal of their feet less torturous than subjecting themselves to this refuse. 2/10
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