All About the Benjamins

on March 08, 2002 by Paul Clinton
Ice Cube brings a fair amount of hip-hop attitude to “All About the Benjamins,” a movie that benefits more from the Pryor-esque gifts of comedian Mike Epps.

Epps plays Reggie, a nickel-and-dime con man always on the run from Ice Cube's bounty hunter Bucum Jackson (notice the “book him” word play). Things get sticky for the two when they stumble into an international diamond heist in a Miami boatyard, where Reggie left his wallet with a $60 million winning lottery ticket inside.

Epps, who teamed with Ice Cube in “Next Friday,” gives a breakout performance. Playing off the stoic rapper, Epps consistently finds fresh ways to bring energy to his scenes. And Epps, who has some of the funniest reaction shots in the movie, doesn't condescend to Reggie.

Many of “Benjamins'” elements feel like they've been patched in from an episode of “Miami Vice,” however -- right down to the expensive speedboats, glitzy homes and buzzing South Beach. Action movie directors never seem to grow tired of this commercialized version of Miami. In many ways, the movie also feels modeled after that classic bluesy bail-bond comedy “Midnight Run.” Writer Ronald Lang even includes a neurotic Jewish bail bondsman who yells at Bucum for the over-the-line way he brings in bond jumpers.

Kevin Bray, a first-timer who has directed a fistful of music videos, has the patience to allow some of his action to develop. But like Michael Bay, he's always cutting away from a cool moment to hype up to scene with slick editing. And he's not shy about loading the movie with mamba music.

The title is Hip-Hop slang for $100 bills. Starring Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Tommy Flanagan and Carmen Chaplin. Directed by Kevin Bray. Written by Ronald Lang and Ice Cube. Produced by Matt Alvarez and Ice Cube. A New Line release. Action. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief sexuality. Running time: 97 minutes.

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