Thursday, April 30, 2009

Almost A First Class Delivery

When two bumbling criminals (Mike Epps and Wood Harris) accidentally receive a package of grade-A cocaine, they think they've hit the jackpot. But when they try to cash in on their luck, it triggers a series of events that forever changes the lives of ten people in Next Day Air, an uproarious action comedy featuring an all-star cast including Donald Faison, Mos Def and Debbie Allen.

There's no honor among thieves in Next Day Air, a dopey, bloody and downbeat "Black Pineapple Express." The laughs come easily enough. But the violence and grim finale drag this coke-deal-gone-wrong comedy into a hole it can't giggle its way out of. Inept thieves smoke weed, play video games and argue over who was supposed to do what at their last botched bank job. An equally stoned delivery man (Donald Faison) misreads the numbers on their door. He leaves them a box stuffed with cakes of cocaine, coke destined for the Hispanic dealer (Cisco Reyes) who lives across the hall, and next thing you know Next Day Air is off. Mike Epps and Wood Harris are cousins who believe the coke "came from God." They plot how to spend the money they're going to make, grand plans for an Escalade and hookers Brody (Epps) hires by phone. "Do something strange for a little piece'a change," he coos. Guch (Harris) is more paranoid. And with a distraught Jesus across the way looking for his lost delivery, correcting everybody's pronunciation of his name ("That's GEE-zus!"), fighting with his shrill Nuyorican girlfriend (Yasmin Deliz), Guch has every right to be scared. In this corner of Philly everybody's related to some other manner of crook, and Brody's cousin (Omari Hardwick) is the hook-up for unloading a lot of blow. Can the clumsy thieves trust the untrusting drug dealer? Will the Mexican drug lord (Emilio Rivera) put it all together and track them down? Or will he take out his frustration on poor Jesus? And what about the doper delivery dude? Will he and his steal-from-his-own-delivery-truck pal ( Mos Def) get theirs? Next Day Air was cast like a comedy with funny roles for Debbie Allen, Darius McCrary and Malik Barnhardt, who plays the robbers' blissfully sleepy roommate. Much of the violence is comic -- threats that Jesus makes every time somebody calls him "hay-Zeus," practicing waving a gun in the mirror. But all these drugs, all these thugs and all those guns are going to wind up making a bloody mess, sooner or later. Director Benny Boom saves that "mess" for the grim, message-slapped-on third act of what had been a gritty, trippy, underwritten comedy. Boom kills his own buzz. The filmmakers behind Next Day Air probably have posters of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino lining their bedroom walls. The movie is like a fanboy love letter, but you end up wishing director Benny Boom simply sent his heroes bouquets instead. Newcomer Boom directs the script by Blair Cobbs, another first-timer. Neither shows a lot of imagination and the stereotypes run deep throughout. It's the kind of movie in which you can tell the Puerto Ricans from the Mexicans because the latter characters are enjoying a cock fight. While there are some very funny moments, overall the movie is poorly produced and horribly acted. Wasn't this movie made in Hollywood? Can't they get a believable Latina or at least someone with a believable Puerto Rican accent? Don’t get me wrong, I like Yasmin Deliz, just not in this role. Even the black actors had to pretend to be “hood” which was overly acted resulting in a mockery much like that of a parody. Even the freeze frames are badly placed, unflattering and awkward. On the plus side, there are some silly jokes and a few laughs to be had, especially when Faison's character is in with his boss, who accuses him (rightfully so) of smoking marijuana on the job. The music is catchy and fits the feel the movie attempts to create. But we still have one question: who ships ten kilos of illegal narcotics through a commercial delivery service?!? The plot is as ridiculous and unbelievable as the acting. On the plus side, the film does have a certain frenetic energy, and Epps can wring a laugh out of the driest material. But really, you should just rent a double bill of "Reservoir Dogs" and "RocknRolla." Ultimately, it tries too hard to be something that it's not.....entertaining. This gets a dreary 2 on my "Go See" scale for the few laughs it produces. 

No comments: