Set It Off (1996)

(In French, On TV, April 2001) Four beautiful black babes robs banks in order to get out of the ghetto. Sounds interesting? It is, but even that premise has limits. Letting slide the disappointing lack of full frontal nudity, the film’s goal to marry an attempt at a serious out-of-the-ghetto tale to an action crime thriller quickly produces contradictions that are hard to ignore. While the heist set-pieces are very well done, one can’t say the same thing about the rest of the film. The setup is laborious, as each character is manipulated (often by those no-good white rich people and policemen) in a desperate situation. Then, inevitably, we get the group-bonding scenes, complete with requisite drug inhalation and weak jokes. Then the ending conjures up a high body-count, often challenging basic credibility to do so. Characters are shot-down-by-police- while-reaching-for-a-weapon with a eye-rolling predictability, most often out of no discernible reason. (One of the gunfight is precipitated by such a dumb move by a security guard that it effectively destroys the film’s impact from then on.) The ending suddenly tries to milk maximum pathos and does so in such a ludicrous fashion that the net effect is more unintentionally funny than affecting. At least the direction is well handled, in a first effort by Gary F. Gray.

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