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2 items from 2006

Waist Deep

22 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"Waist Deep" plunges much deeper than that into good old-fashioned genre filmmaking. Director Vondie Curtis Hall gives this virtually nonstop crime actioner, set against the mean streets of Los Angeles, pleasing noirish touches along with larger-than-life-size characters. The Rogue Pictures release is pitched to urban houses so blacks will predominately make up the audience for the well-made film.

Tyrese Gibson, after two fine performances in the John Singleton films "Baby Boy" and "Four Brothers", carries the movie on his broad shoulders, though the impossibly good-looking Meagan Good makes a solid action co-star. The opening sequence in the screenplay by Hall and Darin Scott (from a story by Michael Mahern) is overly contrived, but does set off a classic race against the clock.

A newly paroled ex-con named O2 (Gibson) has somehow landed a security job that gives him access to a gun. When his flaky cousin Lucky (Larenz Tate) fails to pick up O2's son, Junior (H. Hunter Hall), from school, O2 must leave his job before a replacement shows up, taking the gun with him, to pick up the boy.

Then, tooling down Adams Boulevard, O2 has his car jacked by hoods with his boy still inside. This leads to a well-executed foot-and-car chase through traffic with guns going off and bad guys shot, but O2 ultimately loses the car -- and his beloved son. His only connection to the carjackers is a hustler named Coco (Good), who apparently was assigned the job of distracting O2 before the assault. He forces Coco at gunpoint to join him in his crusade to get back his son.

Since O2 has two strikes against him under California's "three strikes" law, he can't go to the police -- certainly not after that highly visible shootout. Lucky finds out that O2's son is being held by a notorious gang leader named Meat (hip-hop star the Game). Meat is demanding $100,000 in two days for Junior's release. So what's an ex-con trying to go straight to do but rob a couple of gang houses and then a few banks to raise the coin?

For a while, O2 and Coco play with the idea of robbing rival gangs to pit them against each other. Somehow this intriguing plot element gets frittered away in the need for action. The robberies themselves are so far-fetched that Hall wisely plays them for laughs. In another mischievous touch, the 48-hour action occurs amid a sea of street protests by South L.A. residents demanding the mayor and police keep their neighborhoods safe. One ambush of the unlucky Lucky happens right behind a rally without one angry participant noticing the gangsters or their guns.

Hall paces the film expertly so he can work in calmer moments for his two desperate characters to open up to each other and explore a blossoming friendship. Along with cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, Hall goes for a straightforward yet often striking visual style that allows for a mobile camera and stunts that flow smoothly from characters' actions. In the early going, though, characters in their cars are framed so tightly you wish for a few wider angles so you can see where all the cars and people are positioned.

Terence Blanchard and Denaun Porter's music is serviceable, while Warren A. Young's production design and Marie France's costumes go for a natural though dramatically heightened look. For the record, Junior is played by the son of the director and his actress-director wife, Kasi Lemmons.


Rogue Pictures

Rogue Pictures and Intrepid Pictures present a Radar Pictures and RSVP Prods. production


Director: Vondie Curtis Hall

Screenwriters: Vondie Curtis Hall, Darin Scott

Story: Michael Mahern

Producer: Preston Holmes

Executive producers: Ted Field, Trevor Macy, Marc D. Evans, Russell Simmons, Stan Lathan, Amy Kaufman, A. Demetrius Brown

Director of photography: Shane Hurlbut

Production designer: Warren A. Young

Music: Terence Blanchard, Denaun Porter

Costume designer: Marie France

Editor: Terilyn A. Shropshire. Cast: 02: Tyrese Gibson

Coco: Meagan Good

Lucky: Larenz Tate

Meat: The Game

Junior: H. Hunter Hall

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 97 minutes »

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Ne-Yo, Short step into roles for 'Stompin' '

17 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Columbus Short and R&B sensation Ne-Yo along with Brian White and Meagan Good have been cast in Stompin', an urban dance film that Sylvain White is directing for Screen Gems. Will Packer, who produced The Gospel for Screen Gems, is producing via his Rainforest Films banner. Written by Rob Adetuyi, the story follows a troubled 19-year-old from the gang-infested streets of L.A. who is able to bypass juvenile hall by enrolling in a black university in Atlanta. There he is courted by the top two campus fraternities, both of which want and need his fierce street-style dance moves to win the highly coveted national stepshow competition. The movie is set in the world of "fraternity stepping," a popular activity among black colleges. Short will play the college student, while Ne-Yo is his roommate. Brian White is a lead of a fraternity, and Good is Short's love interest. »

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