“All About the Benjamins” accomplishes something that many thought impossible the picture, written by and starring Ice Cube and co-starring Mike Epps, actually makes one yearn for a viewing of “Next Friday.” That film, also starring Cube and Epps, was a shameful sequel compared to its Chris Tucker-powered laugh riot predecessor “Friday,” but it actually surprised many with enough amusing jokes about pot and the nouveau riche for an enjoyable time. Also, much of its humor stemmed from the awkward delivery of Mike Epps, new comedian on the block and Tucker replacement.
With that in mind, the re-teaming of the Cube and Epps odd couple was expected and seen as something to look forward to for better comedy to come. However, even with a new script by Cube and obvious improvisation from Epps, “Benjamins” falls flat on its good-humored face. It must be possible for jokes about Christopher Reeves” handicap or dead white women to be funny, but “Benjamins” leaves the laughs at home. The only sound echoing after the majority of these jokes is silence.
Ice Cube is Bucum Jackson, a Miami bounty hunter, who is sick of two things: his beloved local NBA team losing (we Pistons fans feel his pain) and doing all the hard work catching wanted convicts but not getting many “benjamins” in return. Bucum”s latest task is to arrest Reggie Wright (Epps), but Wright flees, and it is during one of their chases that the two get in the middle of a $20 million diamond heist. Bucum, reluctantly, and Wright, excited, must become temporary partners to help nail a man named Williamson, who is behind it all.
In a perfect example of the film clichs “Benjamins” grasps on to for dear life in telling its story, not only is Williamson (Tommy Flanagan, “Gladiator”) foreign, but he also has a couple really ugly scars detailing his face. Bucum is driven to stop Williamson because his love for money makes those diamonds very appealing. Wright, who was once captured by a couple of Williamson”s goons, thinks “scarface” has his wallet, which happens to hold a $60 million winning lottery ticket. Director Kevin Bray must have had an easy time answering that ever popular question asked by all actors, “what is my motivation?” The answer for everyone in “Benjamins” is money.
“Benjamins” actually begins with a sequence involving Bucum”s detaining of a criminal played by “80s semi-star Anthony Michael Hall. During the capture, things predictably get out of control, and Bucum must put a stun gun to Hall”s groin. Film critics everywhere have probably dreamed of doing injury to Anthony Michael Hall for all the hours of torture he has put them through, most especially in “Johnny Be Good,” so this sequence should be pleasurable in at least a vicarious manner. Yet, like the rest of the movie, the visuals are ugly, the action is confusing, the dialogue is annoying and the scene serves no purpose in the greater scheme of the film. Opening action sequences are meant to quickly entertain and create an energetic tone for the rest of the movie (see any James Bond film). “All About the Benjamins” immediately alienates its viewers and establishes the fact that the film about to be viewed will pull no punches in trying to make sure one has a good time at the theater. Sadly, it also sets up that this good time will be had by none.