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Diana, a young mom working at a shoe store meets two strippers, Tricks and Ronnie. They tell her that she should work at The Playa's Club for big money. The woman accepts and soon introduces her cousin into the club. Then she finds out that her cousin is doing housecalls which Tricks bribed her to do. One day Diana returns to her house after almost being raped by an obsessed fan and finds her cousin sleeping with her ex-boyfriend. She kicks her cousin out and starts dating Blue, a DJ at the club. They go out one night and Diana's cousin calls asking her to pick her up from a bachelor party. Diana refuses and soon after her cousin is raped. Now she has only one option, to put Tricks in her place. Written by
YOU CAN MAKE A LOT OF MONEY IN THE STRIPPING GAME. And in the film industry.
But movies on the stripping game don't seem to. They never seem to be well-made, or much fun. Why? What's going on here? The characters and plot are so non-existent, they fall under the category of pornos without sex.
And who wants to see that?
Such on the form as "Showgirls" made one wish the makers had followed pornography by example and not tried to have plot.
Good readers, take a deeep breath of relief that "The Players Club" has slightly higher-quality of strip than glitzy dives like "Showgirls" and "Striptease." Not quite the British Oscar contender level of "The Full Monty"... but not quite a "Striptease."
Written and directed by old-school rap superstar Ice Cube, "The Players Club" is a posh, yet harsh feature dealing with women needing big money really fast and giving themselves over to this way in order to get it. Stripping changes who you are all over. Inside-and-out, Diana says.
But hey--everybody needs money. Everyone wants more. Even if you're Trump, every single dollar... just isn't enough. We've all heard of the girl who turns trick in order as last resort. There are women who get into stripping 'cause they want worship, adoration. To control every man in the room--and her career.
But there are those who just need to make mad money mad fast. When we meet Diana (LisaRaye), she's just had a fight with father over college. He throws her out. She leans on a guy for support. He gives her more than that. He gives her a child. Then he leaves her.
Single black woman raises baby on her own, no means. Such a sad, familiar story.
To make ends meet, she gets at a shoe-store job. Some strippers come in and tell her there are ways of making more money--much, much more. In high demand. You're in charge of your career, your clientèle, yourself. Diana, you're suddenly in charge of life.
The "The Players Club," a ritzy men's club it Atlanta. The place is always hopping like a horny-toad on hop with the kind of people you'd like to know.
"Players" has a lot of the gimmicks as "Striptease." One can only wonder... did The Ice see that movie... just before he wrote up this?
A lot is pretty warmed-over. But despite blaxploitation roots and intentions, "The Players Club" boasts an A-list cast and production values, thanks to the powerful status name of The Ice Cube and New Line.
Bernie Mac gives in his plum of the "Players Club" owner "Dollar" Bill. A eccentric cartoon who dresses like a pimp, promotes himself like Don King with that philosophical wisdom that one picks up on the street, from the school of hard knocks. Business, yet ghetto.
John Amos and Faizon Love are a pair of sorta dirty-cops who frequent. They got that Amos and Andy-shtick with Amos playing it straight and Love going for laughs.
Oscar-winner Foxx of "Ray" fame got his start in the biz as stand-up and here as Blue, it might've served him (and the freakin' movie) better had he done some of his act. You'd think the DJ at a strip club wouldn't be important (Bill even tells Blue that to his face at one point), but he proves to be the very thing that Diana needs--even pulling it all together in the final act.
Looking at all this, I kept waiting for Pam Grier to pop up in some cameo (where she at least keep her clothes on).
"Players Club" does make a lot of its characters colorful and eccentric while keeping a lot of them fairly human. Cube tries to juggle, not making it a specific genre--but a "life film." His movie is comedy, drama, a thriller, and action flick...
As a filmmaker, Ice dons the indie hat here--as screenwriter, executive producer, director and bit-player.
Though at times, Cube's stuff feels tired, underdeveloped. He's credited also as exec producer, which I think means he green-lit his own project. It pays to have an objective eye. Could Cube's old director from "Boyz 'N' The Hood" Singelton have come down to give former "Doughboy" some sage advice?
Despite it's blaxploitation roots, "Club" mostly tries to sidestep a lot of opportunities to make the whole thing really, really campy, going for the "so bad, it's good" laughs that helped the earlier "white-stripper" movies get some viewers. But there is some camp here and there--all unintentional, I'm sure. Cube ain't Spike Lee.
He doesn't make all the women into the kind of creatures they seem to be in their act. He doesn't make all their customers into crazed rioting monkeys. Oh, no. No, no. The Ice has more respect for this than all that. And doesn't just fall back on the easy crutch of just peddling shots of naked flesh from near beginning-to-end.
I wished Cube's partner-in-crime Chris Tucker from "Friday" had popped- up. Tucker is on-par with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence as comic presence. Such talent, he's can bring even the deadest scene to life. Ol' Smokey made "Friday" a must-see, he could've made this all the better.
There are times when Cube doesn't capture energy he needs to. As director, he seems to be just recording. The camera is on auto-pilot rather than capturing mood.
No classic, no AFI's 100 Best, no one's absolute fave of all time--no. Still worth seeing.
And blaxploitation is still alive, still thriving... somewhere in this world. Not thriving like the stripping game, or the world's oldest profession.
But yeah, it's there...
--A Believer in Big, Bad Black Cinema, Dane Youssef
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