Set It Off

on November 08, 1996 by Lea Russo
   Casting actresses in traditional male roles might yet become a refreshing trend in Hollywood. In a twist on the standard "noir," Gramercy's critically acclaimed "Bound" cast Gina Gershon as Jennifer Tilly's lover. New Line released "A Long Kiss Goodnight" with Geena Davis playing a CIA assassin. And now "Set It Off" successfully tells the story of women bank robbers.
   Set in the Los Angeles projects, the film follows sensible Stony ("The Nutty Professor's" Jada Pinkett), who tries to raise enough money to send her brother to UCLA; lesbian Cleo (rap artist Queen Latifah), who wants to turn her car into a hotrod; single mother Tisean (newcomer Kimberly Elise), who can't afford daycare; and Frankie (Vivica A. Fox of "Independence Day"), who just got fired from her bank-teller job. Tired of being victims of circumstance, the girls decide to knock over a few banks.
   Shootouts, car chases, fast getaways--"Set It Off" is a typical action film. Yet Director F. Gary Gray ("Friday") and screenwriters Kate Lanier ("What's Love Got to Do With It") and Takashi Bufford ("House Party 3") don't glorify the brutal violence or turn their criminals into heroines. Rather, everyone in "Set It Off" pays a price, whether it is society, the LAPD, Stony's boyfriend (Blair Underwood), or the girls themselves. More importantly, the film depicts some of the tough problems women face without male bashing or languishing in pity. "Set It Off" is about the lives of four women, but this tense, fast-paced picture can't be classified as a "chick" film. Starring Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Written by Kate Lanier and Takashi Bufford. Produced by Dale Pollock and Oren Koules. A New Line release. Action/drama. Rated R for strong graphic violence, pervasive language, some sex, and drug use. Running time: 121 min. Opened 11/6 wide
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