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Notes from the Back Row

Hot sun and summer crime

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Okay I’ll admit it. These warm summer days really make me want to roll around in my ’63 with a gin and juice in one hand and a pocket full of dimes in the other; just staying true to the game while keepin’ one eye on my bankroll and the other on my skeezers, true gangsta style. What I don’t really feel like doing is checking out Four Brothers , the newest from gangsta-classic Boyz in The Hood director John Singleton.

While Singleton’s characters always bring at least a decent sense of gangsta to the screen, he hasn’t really impressed me since 1994’s Higher Learning. With Four Brothers , he doesn’t this time either.

After teaching a grandmotherly lesson to a shoplifter, Evelyn Mercer, a clever and honest figurehead of the urban Detroit community, is gunned down in a corner store. Her four adopted sons reunite at the funeral and the whole thing seems a bit fishy. Instead of letting the authorities handle things they vow to get revenge. In the best display of male camaraderie since Rio Bravo the four totally different siblings (two of them are white!) overcome their individual conflict and end up with some binding family ties that would make their do-gooder mother proud.

Forget that people are dying all over the place or that Evelyn Mercer seemed to be the kind of world-wise woman who’d have preached the same tune as Gandhi, (an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind) and just focus on the quasi-gangsta action/humour/not-overly-done sentiment. Singleton does a decent job with this picture but it’s really just an updated version of The Sons of Katie Elders , a 1965 John Wayne western. Singleton mixes action and drama pretty well, although his social messages are a bit watered down compared to back in the day when a hydraulic lift kit on your car was as straight up gangsta as it came. Nowadays, hydraulics are everywhere – on planes ( Soul Plane) and, this week, even on a boat parked in Amsterdam for Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

You don’t go into a man-whore movie looking to broaden your horizons. You go in hoping the crazy euro-lady with the cock for a nose somehow gets it into the other whacko chick’s tracheotomy hole. She does, don’t worry. Deuce (Rob Schneider) has traveled to Amsterdam to solve a series of serial killings and clear his old pimp’s name. Chock full of some ’o the sickest and raunchiest jokes of the year, Deuce Bigalow is funny in that "rent it" sort of way. It covers no new ground and is totally inane but hey, at least there’re midgets – midgets rule.

So does black magic, voodoo especially. Unfortunately The Skeleton Key , this week’s attempt at horror/thriller, does not. Kate Hudson, the nice, white-girl nurse, goes down south for some creeps and chills at the hands of an old woman, an invalid, and a good dose of hoodoo. Hoodoo is a black magic like voodoo except you’d have to be a damn fool to mess with voodoo.

Director Iain Softley, no fool, has created a creepy, atmospheric film, with the strongest performance coming from Gena Rowlands as the mysterrious hoodoo matriarch. If you don’t believe in something can it still kill you? Damn straight.

The Skeleton Key is nothing to write home about but it will give you a bit of refuge from the heat. As well, it’ll shine a different kind of light on the old south. It’s sinister down there, much harder and more gangsta than last week’s Dukes of Hazzard hillbilly, white bread, cracker shit. A couple blunts and a slurpee and The Skeleton Key just might unlock something worthwhile.

AT VILLAGE 8 Aug. 12-18: Four Brothers; Skeleton Key; Deuce Bigalow, European Gigalow; Dukes of Hazzard; Stealth; Sky High; The Island; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Wedding Crashers; March of the Penguins.

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