Waist Deep

on June 23, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
Clich├ęs specific not only to dramatic action thrillers in general, but black dramatic action thrillers in particular, run thick and a good deal more than 'waist deep' in this urban crime flick starring Tyrese Gibson ("Four Brothers"). This is a movie that would like to be a latter-day "Slaughter" or "Truck Turner" (starring Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes, respectively), built on righteous black rage and political ferment, but these are not the early '70s, and the trite antihero characterizations and Swiss-cheese narratives are as outdated as platform shoes.

Gibson plays O2, an ex-con working as a security guard trying to go straight for his son's sake. Said son is "accidentally" kidnapped when O2's car is jacked and Junior (Henry Hunter Hall) is asleep in the back. It's a sloppy setup that goes badly in the movie and is equally inconsistent narratively. The suggestion is that the carjackers don't know Junior is in the car, but as it turns out the whole thing was arranged by a hooker named Coco ("Brick's" Megan Good), who's working for a local drug dealer named Meat (hip-hop impresario The Game). This is a pick-one situation; both things cannot be true -- either the carjackers were sent to get junior, or not. In any case, O2 forces Coco to help him retrieve his son and the action part of the thriller gets underway. O2 needs money to ransom his Junior so he and Coco go on a Bonnie and Clyde-style robbery spree, stealing from all the drug dealers in an attempt to spark a gang war, thus distracting -- apparently -- Meat long enough for O2 to get Junior back.

Co-writer/director Vondie Curtis Hall helmed "Gridlock'd," a low-budget buddy thriller starring Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth, with nary a rote moment. This is not the case with "Waist Deep," a big-budget thriller with nary an original moment. Gibson is a one-note performer whose range includes angry and angrier. With The Game and even the usually delightful Ms. Good playing effectively the same emotional range, little room is left for thoughtful insight or subtlety. As an aside, the film is set against a backdrop of protests against urban violence. One wonders if the irony of having the ex-con antihero star of a film using nothing but the most brutal acts of violence to retrieve his kidnapped son (taken during an act of violence) played out against a backstory about inner-city violence is intended. The overall lack of sophistication of the film suggests not. Starring Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate and The Game. Directed by Curtis Vondie Hall. Written by Curtis Vondie Hall and Darin Scott. Produced by Tony Brown, Ted Field, Preston L. Holmes, Joe Rosenberg and Michael Weber. A Focus release. Drama/Thriller. Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language. Running time: 97 min

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