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All About The Benjamins

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Cinematically and musically, Ice Cube got off to an auspicious start, stealing the show in John Singleton's Boyz N The Hood and revolutionizing rap with N.W.A and his incendiary early solo albums. Cube's winning streak extended to his first foray into screenwriting, 1995's Friday, an uneven but endearing slice-of-hood-life comedy highlighted by a star-making turn from Chris Tucker. Tucker and director F. Gary Gray went on to bigger things, but Cube fumbled with subsequent filmmaking forays like the woeful Players Club and Next Friday, which shamelessly tried to plug comedian Michael Epps into the Chris Tucker slot, with feeble results. Epps, the latest and perhaps least promising graduate of the Eddie Murphy Institute Of Wisecracking Comedians, steps into road-show Chris Tucker duty once again in All About The Benjamins, a witless, bloody, unpleasant mismatched-buddy movie. A comedy only in the sense that Epps' non-stop Jamie Foxxisms are ostensibly supposed to be amusing, Benjamins casts Cube as yet another scowling straight man, this time a hard-working bounty hunter whose only joy in life seems to come from collecting his pay and torturing his charges. Cube longs to leave his job and start his own detective agency, and sees his opportunity when he meets Epps, a grifter in hot pursuit of both a $60 million lottery ticket and $20 million worth of ill-gotten diamonds. Just how needlessly violent is Benjamins? One minor character is introduced murdering his accomplices in an insurance scam; he's then shot in the hand by his sadistic, racist boss, and later tortured further by Cube and then Epps. Over the course of the film, Cube and Epps make the inevitable, time-tested transition from testy rivals to best chums, but in keeping with Benjamins' nasty spirit, their friendship seems motivated solely by their shared greed. But then, nearly everyone here is driven by greed and sadism, a condition that seems to apply to the filmmakers, as well.