Posted: 03/08/2002


All About the Benjamins


by Del Harvey

Money can make people do funny things. Like make movies as bad as this.

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Ice Cube is still trying to elevate himself from rapper to bit actor to star thespian. Problem is, he doesn’t possess the self-awareness of LL Cool J or the marketing savvy of Ice T. Both of those individuals seem to be in tune enough with their personas, on screen and off, to the point that they have carved out not only success but a level of dignity in the process. Ice Cube’s acting career began with Boyz N the Hood, and since then he has been in at least 20 films, the best of which have been Friday, the sequel—Next Friday, and Three Kings. Most of the other films have been largely similar to All About The Benjamins.

In All About The Benjamins, Cube is a bounty hunter whose foremost quarry seems to be Mike Epps, a two-bit con man whose self-proclaimed “bitch” (Eva Mendes) has just picked the winning numbers for the Florida State Lottery. Only problem is, he just stumbled onto a botched diamond heist and dropped his wallet while getting away. Cube’s character makes the transition from bounty hunter to partner to his quarry at some point that must have been left on the cutting room floor, because there is no clear and obvious reason given onscreen as to his choice for switching sides and turning his back on the life he has known.

In fact, from this point on the film takes a few odd turns which make no logical sense. Many huge plot holes are glossed over by situations magically falling into place, accidents occurring in favor of our erstwhile antiheroes, or events transpiring which are so far-flung but apparently perfectly acceptable to the writers (co-written by Cube), producers (one of whom was Cube) and director (Kevin Bray). By the time we get to the end of this film there are few clichés left untouched. Instead of a self-realized character built on survivor’s instinct, which is what Cube’s public persona presents, we are given a shameless opportunist who does not seem to care about much that isn’t materialistic. Even Epps’ character has more soul than that.

The sad thing is, the makers of All About The Benjamins seem to think that audiences are completely mindless and gullible, and want only to see films which elevate the inanity and worthlessness of materialism and self-centeredness. Thankfully, society has not quite sunk to that depth.

The better version of this film has already been made, and it even bears the same executive reference in the title: Dead Presidents. In fact, it’s probably best if you just avoid The Benjamins altogether.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Southern California, is a devout Bears fan, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College for giggles.

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