Waist Deep (Film)

Artist: Movie ReviewTitle: Waist Deep (Film)Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Edwardo Jackson

It's summertime: the weather's getting hotter, the skirts are getting shorter. So are attention spans and standards. If you’ve been waiting for a film that embraces all those big screen excesses that the summer months afford; time to wade in and get Waist Deep. (Focus Films)

Recently paroled two strikes felon O2 (Tyrese Gibson) gets wickedly carjacked in broad daylight on the streets of South Central, LA. An even bigger problem: his young son (H. Hunter Hall) was in the car. Employing the talents of the sexy clothes hustlin' Coco (Meagan Good), who helped set him up to get jacked, O2 goes about trying to secure the $100,000 ransom demanded by the nefarious (and mellifluously named) Big Meat (The

Game) in two days time by willfully plunging himself in the middle of a gangland turf war. Aiding - or is he hindering? - the cause is O2's undependable cousin Lucky (Larenz Tate), who's got Meat-y problems of his own. With his feverishly knocking over banks and playing neighborhood stick-up kid, will O2 be able to live up to the promise he gave his son ("I'll always come back for you.")?

Believe it or not, this movie actually makes you care about the answer. A sometimes implausible but rousingly gritty hood flick, the wonderfully LA-centric Waist (Wessssside!) gets about as deep as a Michael Bay shoot-'em up. Set against an anti-violence, is-blood-thicker-than-water theme yet still indulging in tons of gunplay and gratuitous profanity, Waist Deep is a movie at war with itself, but agreeably so. The Darin Scott/Vondie Curtis Hall script - vice-filled, ebonics-laden, bullet-riddled - isn't very sophisticated dialogue-wise, but some of the most entertaining ones aren't, are they? It is, however, clever and energetic while offering more than passing commentary on the deep and wide schism between LA whites and Blacks, the haves and have-nots (driving down Sunset Blvd. for the first time, LA native Coco says, "Damn. This [stuff 's] like a whole other world."). Establishing a nice, brisk tempo, Hall does a fine job of lusciously keeping Black folks in frame. Definitely not an up with people film that's going to win any Image Awards, Waist Deep doesn't pretend to be anything it's not - it's just a straight up, Hip-Hop-based hood banger.

Good thing then that Watts-reared Tyrese is on board. Filling the bill-and lens-with his blackboard cool skin restrained by a simple ‘wife-beater’ tank top, Tyrese gives his most authentic, quietly charismatic performance to date. Sporting pouty, two-toned lips, Daisy Dukes, and heels stacked three stories tall to make her short frame seem to stretch out like the 405 freeway, Meagan Good, at least visually, surpasses her name, with the former child actress fully enjoying her several sex bomb moments. She is all grown up now, as her character Coco, a onetime single mother and product of the damaged foster care system, is an attitudinal, chain-smoking hoodrat. While Good isn't consistently believable as an around-the-way girl, she IS consistently "good" to look at, with us being privy to the love affair between her and Hall's camera. Larenz Tate, another LA native, is eminently believable/watchable as that screw-up cousin that we ALL have while The Game's snarling film debut is brutal, harsh, but effective in a limited role (think a one-eyed, Nino Brown wannabe - with a machete). Oh yeah, and there's a laughable cameo by Kimora Lee Simmons as well.

Sure, this flick's got problems. A cheesy, albeit earned ending that's about as plausible as a unicorn race. Somewhat superfluous but realistic use of F-bombs and N-words. And, of course, not the most flattering portrait of our people in our most commonly media reinforced economic state.

But this movie ain't about all that. Waist Deep is a guilty pleasure. This is the type of film where people smoke and cuss, illegally discharge firearms, and nobody goes by their given name (O2, Coco, Big Meat, Lucky, Pookie and 'em...). Not every "Black film" needs to be socially responsible (hell, many the Hollyhood gatekeepers let slip by are downright offensive). Like ANY and EVERY film, it just needs to be ENTERTAINING. If your idea of entertainment is a pint-sized rapper on rollers who can't act or a 6'5" dude in drag throwing hot grits on people, well, bless your heart. You've obviously checked your brain at the box office. So go ahead and valet park that cerebral cortex with Waist Deep. It's summertime.

Edwardo Jackson (ReelReviewz@aol.com) is an author and LA-based screenwriter, visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com