|In the tradition of 48 hours, All About The Benjamins takes two men of very different attitudes and places them together in a situation that "will ultimately lead to humorous situations." It's a familiar set-up that's been done more than a few times, and a little more successfully than in this latest installment of the mismatched buddies type of franchise. Although this film might not be part of a series, it does strive to emulate the genre. And in some areas it succeeds. Ice Cube has proven himself to be a capable actor in such films as Friday and Three Kings and seems poised to conquer Hollywood as he moves into the writing and directing game. While he won't win an award for his performance in Benjamins, he is making a name for himself behind the camera.|
He said in an interview that comedies like this one are probably the type of films he'll be making for the next few years, to get a foot-hold on producing and writing on his own. And Benjamins is a decent start. While not a stellar film, it has it's share of laughs and excepting Mike Epps (whose character bordered more on the annoying rather than funny) it was well cast. Special kudos should go out to Eva Mendes who plays Epps's intelligent girlfriend. She picks a winning set of lottery numbers and epps just happens to lose the ticket. On the run from Ice Cube's bounty hunter character, Epps has the double worry of finding the ticket and keeping out of Cube's path.
So when Cube's character of "Bucum" (pronounced book 'em) realizes something more involved is going on with his quarry (Epps's "Reggie" character), the two have to team up to find twenty million dollars worth of missing diamonds. While Bucum and Reggie go about finding the thieves they invariably get into trouble between themselves and with the case they're working on. The resident evil dude, played by Tommy Flanagan, in a role that gives him quite a few lines of dialogue, has quite the standard character. He's one of the many elements of this film that could be considered usual. And perhaps it's the way he spoke, but Flanagan never really seemed to be that dangerous. Perhaps if he'd toned down the Scottish accent a bit, he wouldn't have seemed such a parody of a bad guy.
In point of fact, there were times when Flanagan's accent interfered with the language he was using so much that the words coming out of his mouth became kind of humorous. He would be giving some poor sod that worked for him hell and the accent would just get in the way. During certain moments of the movie, the people in the audience chuckled a few times when Flanagan would have something to say. Whether this reflects worse on the dialogue of the film or on Flanagan's acting abilities is uncertain. He did a more than decent job with his performance in Braveheart, but then again, everyone in that film had accents.
Flanagan seems to have been the only obvious piece of mis-casting though; the rest of the actors pulled off their roles with intelligence. Though Epp's performance seemed to be just a little off-target at times. He wasn't able to get the "funny yet sometimes heartwarming" bit quite right. It probably comes down to his being a little more annoying than he needed to be. Sure, he was cast as the comedic sidekick, but annoyance didn't have to enter into that equation. But since it did, the relationship onscreen between Cube and Epps suffered somewhat. The attitudes between the two actors weren't different enough to create a true straight man - funny man combination.
Take, for example, the performances of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black. Tommy Lee played his role without one degree of humor, while everything that came out of Smith's mouth was said for comedic effect. In Benjamins, Epps isn't always funny enough and Ice Cube doesn't always play his character completely serious. And it didn't help either that the action sequences were sometimes a bit muddled. While it is evident that this film didn't have the giant budget of other action films, the choreography and cinematography looked to be filmed without a lot of planning. Or perhaps it was ingenuity that was missing from the equation.
Complete originality wasn't called for, but the static and used look of some of the scenes involving action made sure that the element of suspense was missing. Since much of the film relies on the bits of action, the fact that they weren't made unique harms the film's overall appeal. But these shortcomings in casting and choreography are not fatal to the film's success. Though All About The Benjamins is not the most polished film, it is a good start for Ice Cube's future career as a writer/director/producer/actor....the list goes on.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.