Set It Off (1996) Poster

(1996)

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10/10
This Movie Will Blow You Away
Critic-1217 October 1998
I rented this movie expecting to see just another average gang related film about the Ghetto, but I was proved wrong. It ended with my eyes wide opened and my mouth to the floor. Set It Off is a very Dramatic film and the performances by the four women were done perfectly. Set It Off reached my heart and all my emotions. It starts off light, but ends deep and touching. There is no possible way you could leave from watching this movie without your eyes being flooded. -A heart-filled film that deserved more publicity than it received.
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8/10
A Well Done Sleeper
Lexuses7130 April 2003
"Set it Off" is another brilliant little B sleeper by the talented F. Gary Gray. What sets this film apart from your routine crime caper/heist flick is that it features some very impressive and strong performances by Jada Pinkett-Smith (one of her very best roles) and Quen Latifah. Vivica Fox, Kimberly Elise and the underrated John C. McGinty were also quite effective in supporting roles. Blair Underwood, who I lilke, was sort of wasted as reverse eye candy. The love story sub plot was a bit if a distraction, only in a minor way. But at the core of this film was the bond between these ladies, all driven to rob banks for various reasons. What they all shared was their desperation. Instead of cliched cardboard characters, we are served pretty well fleshed out characters with as much depth as time allows. Some have mentioned they didn't like the ending, but I rather did. Queen Latifah was outstanding as a hardened career criminal. There is one scene where Jada's character stands up to her and it's tasty.

All in all, a pretty dang good thriller film that should be seen. The performances are what elevates it above the norm for this genre.
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8/10
Surprisingly good
Sandro-LN19 November 2001
Warning: Spoilers
My first impression was "Gangsta flick with chicks." And, to some extent, that's what I got. But there was a lot more, and I was deeply impressed with the realism, with one exception. The exception comes near the end and I won't give it away, but it involves police officers taking shots at a suspect with a bus full of people in the background.

One of the recurring themes of this film is how innocence and good intentions can turn into a nightmarish reality.

A bank teller is confronted by a robber that she knows from childhood. She can hardly believe what is happening, and she doesn't react in the manner in which all bank tellers are trained. A hostage dies, and she loses her job. A slow reaction leads to a death, accusations, and the loss employment.

A bright young man gets a haircut that is identical to a robbery suspect's. The police surround him. He has a champagne bottle in his coat that he doesn't want to break and tries to pull it out. They think it is a gun. An innocent mistake leads to a death.

A loving mother can no longer afford a babysitter. She has to bring her child to work, and he gets into some cleaning supplies. A mother's good intention turns into a hospital trip and a custody battle.

There were other instances where one mistake led to dire consequences, but I found them all believable, and none of them gave me the impression of being mere vehicles to advance the plot.

I enjoyed some of the other representations of Life as it is. One being the inclusion of a lesbian (Latifa) in the cast without making a big deal out of it. Although exhibiting some stereotypical lesbian traits (denim overalls for example,) she wasn't overly "butch." And homosexuality wasn't used as a plot device to include nudity either. Speaking of which, the sex in the movie was pretty well done. When there was love, the sex was passionate. When Stony was doing it for money, she looked ready to burst into tears. For the most part, the sex came without nudity: disappointing in some ways, but adding credibility to the movie in others.

I did have a few problems with this movie. One is a failing that I see in many movies. When a character's friend or family member is killed, he or she expresses initial shock and pain, but later on exhibits no outward mental stress. There is also the "I would have done it differently" factor. I felt this a few times, the first being the opening scene where Frankie (Fox) is being held up. Or when Cleo (Latifa) is stealing get away cars and tossing the previous owner's CDs out the window. Both of these are cases in which one needs to move fast and do what is needed to move on. You don't have time to stare blankly at your old friend. You don't have time to select the proper driving ambience. But these flaws didn't take too much from the general feeling.

I rated it 8 of 10.
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10/10
By Any Means Necessary!!
davesmooth22 January 2004
Great Movie. Gripping tale of 4 women who turn to robbing banks to make it out of ghetto life. The 4, played by Jada Pinkett, (Not married to Will Smith at time of filming) Vivica A. Fox, Dana Owens (Better know as Queen Latifa) and newcomer at the time, Kimberly Elise all work legally until they figure that crime will pay them more than honest work. Blair Underwood is excellent as the love interest for Stoney (Pinkett) with his Harvard education mixed with a street knowledge. Pace of the movie is good, and it all flows very well. Excellent movie. Worth renting from Blockbuster.
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very good but very sad too...
whoTheFuqRyou24 April 2003
I thought this was great. I am not being biased because of the fact that F. Gary Gray directed this but this was actually a very good movie. There is so much in this movie that really made me feel bad for the female quartet of bank robbers: (1. Stony degrades herself in order to put her brother through college only to find out he didn't get in and to see him shot dead minutes later (2. T.T., a single mom gets her pay docked, and is forced to bring her son to work who is hospitalized there as well (3. Frankie is robbed at gunpoint by some rockheads from her hood and loses her job because she didn't follow the procedure, and knowin' the game you're not supposed to snitch on someone from your own block 'cause that puts you at risk and (4. Cleo, the trigger happy, dyked out robber of the bunch has led a life of crime and has no one to turn to but her girlfriend and best friends.

This was such a wonderful movie because the action was definitely present here and the acting(especially Jada Pinkett and Queen Latifah) was great! Not only was the action there but the sentiment of the girls and what they've been through and what they go through shows how unfortunate they were and even worse, I damn near almost started crying at the ending 'cause it made me feel so bad. Christopher Young score well with the BGM of this flick to put the cherry on top.

very wonderful movie with a conscience 10/10
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9/10
Meet some of your less positive feelings
ThereAreManyZathras19 June 2004
A great movie for those peoples that like to empathize with a movie.

If you let yourself have the same feelings as the characters in the

movie have you might have strong emotions like: despair, feeling

trapped and injustice.

You might even find, that choices you can't comprehend are suddenly

very logical.

For peoples that don't let their feelings participate in watching the

movie. I imagine this movie is less appealing.
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this movie shows us the possibility of what we might do
will-1082 July 1999
This movie gives us a graphic insight into the possibility of what people might do under certain circumstances and situations. These young ladies' misfortunes in life have driven them to do something that otherwise would not have entered their minds: robbing a bank. Their participation in this criminal activity is a crying-out against the evils of their society and environment. In other words, they are saying "because of what you did to me...this is how I will respond". Anyone who has seen this film honestly knows that what they're doing is just as morally wrong as what has happened to each of them, but, for some deep-seated reason, we find ourselves rooting for them - even hoping that they get away with it. Each character reveals a problematic area in our working society: unfair employment and termination practices, inadequate childcare options, hindrances and distractions of the ghetto and other social plights and dilemmas.

We may not agree with what these young ladies are doing but somehow we understand. (please see this movie...)
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10/10
Phenomenal
cjgreb21 April 2002
It is not often that a movie takes on race and gender issues with such bravery and force. They do it here and they succeed in a way that not many will ever be able to match. And by the way, it was a DISGRACE that the academy ever overlooked Kimberly Elise's AMAZING performance in this film.
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10/10
The S.W.A. (Sistaz With Attitude)
dee.reid18 December 2001
"Set It Off" is about four African-American women(Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise) who decide to go out and rob a few banks. They don't rob banks for sheer enjoyment or because they have nothing better to do. No, they rob them because they are getting back at "the system" that they feel has screwed them over in their lives. Here are the reasons: in the opening bank robbery sequence, Frankie(Fox), who was at the time a teller, was fired simply because she knew the suspect who robbed it; Stony's(Smith) younger brother, Stevie was killed by police after being mistaken for the robbery suspect; Cleo(Latifah) joins them simply because she is p***ed off at society; Tisean(Elise) is a single mother who is barely able to support her son and when he is accidently poisoned and taken away by child services, decides she has no other choice. I feel I must point out that up until that point, she is reluctant to join the other three women.

This is a really good movie that is definitely Oscar-worthy material. Maybe not for the Best Picture category, but definitely Oscar-worthy. The performances are excellent especially from all four of our young stars. Queen Latifah should definitely should have gotten an Oscar or Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her portrayal of a fiery lesbian is right on key. F. Gary Gray, who also directed Ice Cube and Chris Tucker in "Friday", is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. I don't think you should really call "Set It Off" an action movie since there isn't really action until the ending.

A line from the movie, "if that crackhead Darnell can rob a bank, then so can we." This quote outlines the main message that the movie is trying to tell: the social standing of women in our society, saying that they have rights too. The movie says that women can basically do anything men can do (and probably better) and they must be applauded for their efforts. Now I'm not saying that women should all go out and round up their friends and start robbing banks. Director F. Gary Gray definitely should be praised for his smart casting choices.

10/10

P.S.: Now from the sound of this review, I've probably got you thinking I'm a woman. Wrong! I'm just a 16 year-old boy from Virginia.
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5/10
It has its flaws, but when it works, wow.
La Gremlin30 March 2003
Here's a movie that bombed because nobody had any idea how to advertise it. It turns out that "Set it Off" is the devastatingly sad story behind a string of unusual bank robberies. I highly recommend it as you really grow to care about the characters, which makes the final act all the more harrowing. My only problem is that the romantic subplot seems out of place. Other then that, make sure you have a box of tissues ready.
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One of the top ten action flicks of 1996
raysond11 February 2005
A formula caper film,but not in the style of Ridley Scott's "Thelma and Louise",the film "Set It Off",offers the novelty of a quartet of young black working-class girls from South Central Los Angeles who turn to bank robbing when times get tough. Although the characters are well played with some of great and intense action scenes makes for an uneven mix of social drama and exploitation film,from which the likes haven't see since the days of the 1970's action blaxploitation films. Bank teller Frankie Scott(Vivica A. Fox)is fired from her job and joins three friends in working for a late-night cleaning service. Complaining about the work,she suggests in jest that they rob a bank. Cleo(Queen Latifah),a hard-drinking tough-as-nails female,and the only one in the group with a criminal record,is seriously interested. Both Stony(Jada Pinkett-Smith),a young woman trying to put here brother through college,and Tisean(Kimberly Elise),a single mother,dismiss the motion out of hand.

Events take a turn for the worst when Stony's brother,Stevie(Chaz Lamar Shepard),is killed by the police in a case of mistaken identity,and Tisean's son is taken away from her by Child Protective Services after he accidentally swallows cleaning fluid at the girls' workplace. Frankie insists that,with her knowledge of banks,they can plan a foolproof job,and she and Cleo convince the other two that they can get out of South Central Los Angeles for good with enough cash. Stony,is sent to case Downtown Federal,where she catches the eye of Keith,a handsome,well-educated bank manager(Blair Underwood),who gives her his phone number. They soon began dating.

The four girls execute their first bank job wearing wigs and sunglasses and make off with $12,000. A second robbery nets them $300,000,enough for them to leave L.A. They hide the loot inside an air vent in the cleaning office. They decide to wait three days before leaving town,until after Tisean's court date to get her child back. Meanwhile, Detective Strode(John C. McGinley)and his female partner Detective Waller(Ella Joyce) doggedly pursue all leads and identify Stony,Frankie and Cleo as suspects. Learning that their boss,Luther(Thom Byrd),has fled with the stolen money,the girls enlist the aid of an notorious gunrunner,Black Sam(Andre "Dr. Dre" Young),who is also a local gang leader,to track Luther to a seedy motel. When Luther pulls a gun out on Cleo,Tisean shoots and kills him. But they are unable to find the money.

The girls pull one last bank job-at Downtown Federal,where Keith works. In order to get Keith out of the bank during the robbery,Stony calls him and tells him to meet her. Strode and his partner interrupt the robbery and get the drop on all four girls. In the ensuing confrontation,a bank guard fires and wounds Tisean and is then shot by Stony. The girls flee with the money and manage to elude the police for several hours. Before the night is over,Tisean dies from her wounds,and Cleo and Frankie are both killed by police bullets in separate incidents. Stony manages to get on a bus to Mexico and freedom. She calls Keith and thanks him.

The motion picture,"Set It Off" offers the audience four intriguing young black female characters,a rare grouping in any Hollywood movie and from the strength of this film went on to become one of the top ten best action films of 1996. Three of the group who stars in "Set It Off",constitute the hottest young black female actresses of their day. You have Jada Pinkett-Smith("The Nutty Professor","Menace II Society", "Jason's Lyric","Collateral"),Vivica A. Fox("Independence Day","Soul Food"),rapper-sitcom-singer star Queen Latifah(from the television series "Living Single","Chicago"),not to mention at the time newcomer Kimberly Elise("John Q","Diary of a Angry Black Woman"). What made this film so very riveting to watch was the electrifying performance of actress Queen Latifah,in one of the most surprising roles ever accompanish by a actress,is a thrill to watch as Cleo. No one else but Latifah can bring this riveting and pulsating character to life with her outlandish style of gun-toting and sometimes extremely foul mouthed criminal flair. Instead,"Set It Off" is fast paced and very well-acted.

The director F. Gary Gray,most notably for the original comedy "Friday",with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker,and the fast paced crime thriller "The Negotiator",with Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson makes imaginative use of L.A. landscape,but still will leave a feeling of social conscience,especially when it touches the issue concerning the explosive rage inside the angry black woman,and the harsh realities of trying to survive in a rugged landscape.
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10/10
Get thee to a store and rent or BUY it!!!!
peacepit20 December 2002
This is one of those see it to believe it movies. Anyone who can sit down and harp on about acting, script blah blah blah really needs to GET A LIFE!!!

Get this movie out, grab some popcorn and just WATCH IT.

If you believe any of the negative reviews about this film and decide not to view it, it is YOUR LOSS!

The music is great the actresses are beautiful and awesome and it is refreshing to see four african american women hold their own in what turns out to be a tragic but inevitable ending for the foursome.

Don't let others turn you off a movie that is well worth watching for the pure adrenalin rush it gives you when the girls decide to take their destiny into their own hands and GO FOR IT, whatever the consequences and believe me their ARE consequences.

10/10 rating from me just for the pure rocking enjoyment of see chicks with attitude.
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10/10
i love it
mamito-125 October 2006
i have watched the movie more than ten times already but i cry every time. some people might think its because I'm a feminist who just love them because they are women , I'm not sure thats not entirely true . you just cant resist feeling sorry for them. I think many people can associate with what they are going through because almost everybody has had one or more raw deals in their lives before.In the beginning i thought Cleo was the "motherly" character( u know what i mean now)but it turns out that Stony actually is.all the raw deals they experienced seemed so next door. they are just the girls next door who would do anything to survive and get by. their families came first especially for T.T and Stony . Look at what Stony did to get his brother the money to go to the best college.typical woman/ mother love. The brother's rejection does not make her love him any less. T.T was to do anything for her baby even if it meant getting involved in the robbery which she was very skeptical about. the love of the woman
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10/10
i love it
mamito-125 October 2006
i have watched the movie more than ten times already but i cry every time. some people might think its because I'm a feminist who just love them because they are women , I'm not sure thats not entirely true . you just cant resist feeling sorry for them. I think many people can associate with what they are going through because almost everybody has had one or more raw deals in their lives before.In the beginning i thought Cleo was the "motherly" character( u know what i mean now)but it turns out that Stony actually is.all the raw deals they experienced seemed so next door. they are just the girls next door who would do anything to survive and get by. their families came first especially for T.T and Stony . Look at what Stony did to get his brother the money to go to the best college.typical woman/ mother love. The brother's rejection does not make her love him any less. T.T was to do anything for her baby even if it meant getting involved in the robbery which she was very skeptically about. the love of the woman
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10/10
I've never cried so much over any movie. FANTASTIC
zee1810 August 2006
I've just finished watching this movie 15 minutes ago and there are still tears falling down my face. I actually had to stop watching for a little while because i was crying to much. This movie started off happy and exciting, followed on with jam packed action and ended with tears going down my face. I haven ever watched a movie which i grew so attached to, the actors (the 4 girls) were truly awesome and really made you feel apart of the movie.

For anyone thinking whether they should or should not watch this movie, the answer is YES you should watch this movie, you'll have laughs, crys, you'll be on the edge of your seat wanting to see more, I'm shocked this movie didn't do better at box office, only made around $100,000,000 worldwide.
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10/10
Comment about 'set it off'
dream0bsessi0n7 August 2004
I absolutely LOVE this movie! I can't stress enough about Queen Latifah's performance (though she's one of my favorite actresses anyhow) and about her being gay and kissing that woman....people, please have some sense. Its just a movie, her character was gay, what'd you expect she'd do? The kiss didn't bother me at all. Vivica's character was cool too. She was tough and I liked that. Jada's character was like others said, more based on reality than the other ones and she did really well. Kimberly, though her role wasn't as big as the other ones, she did really well on her character. You could see the emotion of love that she had for that child and how a young mother reacts to having someone take them away. Overall, I give this movie a straight up 10!
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7/10
Amateurish but entertaining
mattymatt4ever20 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"Set it Off" is far from remarkable, but it's amiable and entertaining. The screenplay was definitely written by amateurs, packing as much melodrama into the storyline as possible. First we introduce the character of Jada Pinkett's brother. She's like a mother figure to him, since their parents are dead. He's a nice guy, gets into a fight with his sister and flees the house. It's no surprise when he turns out dead two scenes later. Then Kimberly Elise's child accidentally swallows some household substances and the custody of the kid is handed over to child services. We have Vivica A. Fox who got fired from her job at the bank and Queen Latifah who's just plain crazy. Basically, the character motivations seem ripped from a soap opera.

The film is predictable from the get-go, so just strap in for the ride. Don't expect high-class writing and high-class direction, especially from the guy who made "Friday." Don't get me wrong, that was a good movie, but like "Set it Off" it's only valuable as lightweight entertainment.

One thing I have to say is this is one black movie that didn't go for the humdrum "white people bad, black people good" premise. I assumed that was the direction the film was going after watching the first scene in which the white bank manager fires Vivica for not following procedure, totally ignoring the fact that she was at gunpoint, along with everyone else in the bank. But then we get introduced to the other two managers, who are both black and both sleazy. Not to say that black people are sleazy; it's just good knowing that the writers weren't associating the term "white" with "sleazy" and didn't see the characters in terms of color. Even the John C. McGinley character, the detective who is out to get the four women, isn't entirely sadistic.

**************SPOILERS AHEAD************

There are a few moments that are just too silly for their own good. Are you telling me two cops are gonna be so distracted by an obnoxious vagrant that they'll totally disregard a bank robbery (literally) taking place right behind them? As I said, you can tell this was written by amateurs. And then we have Queen Latifah driving through the bank in a minivan, which is stupid in the first place and shown simply for cinematic pretentiousness, and the four women drive out, still not being actively pursued by the cops. Latifah makes one turn and suddenly she loses the cops altogether? That's too much disbelief to suspend. And of course, in the usual cinematic tradition, the minor characters have to die first. Kimberly Elise dies in standard operatic fashion--in someone's arms, saying her last words. Only in the movies can someone die like that 90 % of the time.

The acting is pretty good, though sometimes hammy. When Jada sees her brother dead on the street, screaming and crying out, "Whyyyyy!!!!" (I could be paraphrasing), that was too much. Latifah's role as a crazy thug wasn't much of a stretch, especially since this film was made back in her hip-hop days. She is a fine actress, though, and I prefer her more mature roles in films like "Living Out Loud." John C. McGinley and Blair Underwood add a touch of class.

If F. Gary Gray weren't so dependent on melodrama and big action spectacles to create tension, this wouldn't been a much more compelling film. Maybe someone like John Singleton or the Hughes Brothers could've made this a more powerful film. Just don't set your expectations too high and you should have a good time.

My score: 7 (out of 10)
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As good as other heist movies but nothing too special apart from the cast's sex and race
bob the moo8 September 2002
Four black female friends are struggling in their own ways. Frankie has a good job at the bank but, when someone she knows robs the place she gets fired for being potentially involved. She gets a job with the others as a cleaning service but soon all their situations worsen leading them to plan a bank robbery themselves. The job goes great but soon they need another job and another - but the police are slowly closing in on them.

I'm missed seeing this several times and looked forward to it a bit. The plot is basically the same as several other crime flicks you'll have seen - gang begins robbery spree, how will it turn out? etc. However the twist here is that the gang are all women and all black. As a twist this is quite good as there are very few all black, all female thrillers out there, so they deserve at least one! The plot is pretty solid and allows for good robbery pieces as well as the usual standoffs and quite exciting climax.

It does also have many weaknesses. There are too many ghetto movie clich├ęs thrown into the mix for my liking. Whether it be the boy bound for college who gets shot, the single mother trying to make it, the low riders etc. I understand why they're all there but really it hurts the film a bit. One little weakness that bothered me was Stony's romance with Keith - he seemed too good to be true and doesn't fit in with all the grit etc that's going on around the rest of the film. But that's it - aside from some sex scenes to help get men into the cinema and some lesbian stuff that appears to be the only reason to have made Cleo gay.

Pinkett (as she was then) is pretty good -in fact pretty and good! She's the only one whose character stays someone resembling reality. I like Fox in several things but she starts normal and quickly turns into a gun-toting criminal. Elsie is OK in her first role and is suitably soft and trapped, but Latifah overplays her butch lesbian. Underwood is as greasy as his hair and I didn't like him and McGinley does good despite his role basically being an attempt to make the white audience feel good about their role. Outside of that Dr Dre makes a laid back cameo.

Overall it doesn't rise above the level of the heist thriller generally but it's still enjoyable and is at least a different direction for all black female films - at least it's not yet another `waiting to exhale'!
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1/10
Cynical, degrading parade of racial and gender stereotypes
midfieldgeneral31 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
After a lively if predictable opening bank-heist scene, 'Set It Off' plummets straight into the gutter and continues to sink. This is a movie that deals in nasty, threadbare stereotypes instead of characters, preposterous manipulation instead of coherent plotting, and a hideous cocktail of cloying sentimentality and gratuitous violence instead of thought, wit or feeling. In short, it's no different from 90% of Hollywood product. But it's the racial angle that makes 'Set It Off' a particularly saddening example of contemporary film-making. Posing as a celebration of 'sistahood', the film is actually a celebration of the most virulent forms of denigrating Afican-American 'gangsta' stereotype. The gimmick this time is that the gangstas are wearing drag. Not only does the film suggest that gangsterism is a default identity for all African Americans strapped for cash or feeling a bit hassled by the Man, it presents its sistas as shallow materialists who prize money and bling above all else. Worse, 'Set It Off' exploits the theme of racial discrimination and disadvantage simply as a device to prop up its feeble plot structure. Serious race-related social issues are wheeled on in contrived and opportunistic fashion in order to justify armed robbery, then they're ditched as soon as the film has to produce the inevitably conventional ending in which crime is punished, the LAPD turns out to be a bunch of caring, guilt-ridden liberals (tell that to Rodney King), and aspirational 'good' sista, Jada Pinkett Smith, follows the path of upward mobility out of the 'hood and into a world of middle-class self-indulgence opened up for her by her buppie bank-manager boyfriend. 'Set It Off' illustrates the abysmal state of the contemporary blaxploitation film, pandering to mindless gangsta stereotypes and pretending to celebrate life in the 'hood while all the time despising it. While the likes of 'Shaft' and 'Superfly' in the 1970s might have peddled stereotypes and rehashed well-worn plots, they had a freshness, an energy and an innocence that struck a chord with audiences of all races and still makes them fun to watch. 'Set It Off' wouldn't be worth getting angry over if wasn't a symptom of the tragic decline and ghettoisation of African-American film-making since the promising breakthrough days of the early 1990s.
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Good Movie
john.foulks27 August 2003
Being a Queen Latifah fan and also Jada Pinkett Smith , this movie was good, not all that great because of the typical sterotype saga of blacks robbing banks. I think one of the best scenes was when they were at work around the big round table portraying and imitating the Godfather, and of course when Queen Latifah met her dome in the hail of bullets after she rode past the bridge.
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4/10
Unusually Bad
bix1715 June 2002
An interesting idea (four African American women crushed under society's boot heel take their revenge by robbing banks) is ruined by F. Gary Gray's horribly slow direction and an excruciating script (by Takashi Bufford and Kate Lanier) full of unintentionally funny moments. Instead of delivering a pointed commentary about the role of urban women struggling to stay afloat in a world where men cruelly abuse and humiliate them, Gray, Bufford and Lanier prefers to pummel their unsuspecting audience with highbrow notions of operatic tragedy. It's melodrama at its worst. Gray has his actors linger over every tired line and John Carter's lazy editing refuses to pick up the slack, choosing instead to keep his camera trained on the performers' bemused faces. And bemused they are: although actors such as Jada Pinkett, Kimberly Elise and Vivica A. Fox have some raw talent (Queen Latifah is the fourth and as an actress she's an excellent rapper), they need a surer hand than Gray's to guide them and as a result they come off as shrill and uncomfortable in front of the camera. Steer clear.
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1/10
Better yet...turn it off!
Squonk14 December 1998
Without a doubt one of the worst movies I've seen in recent years. The story focuses on four women driven to robbing banks who we are somehow supposed to sympathize with. It's tough to sympathize with characters who keep making such stupid decisions. Oh no, the cops are on to us, they know who we are, what do we do?...Let's rob one more bank then we're outta here! What!?! Every character is a stereotype and it's easy to tell who's gonna end up dead.
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Alarmingly Unrealistic and Sensational
Nick_Dets28 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've never lived in the projects. I have in no way experienced the plight of the marginalized. I've never known what it's like to be kept below the line that divides those who should be educated and those who should be left in the dark. For that reason I, by no means, have any right to speak for those people. But after watching the 1996 movie "Set it Off," I can't understand why no one seemed to get offended at its ignorance about, and exploitation of, the lower class- in particular the struggling black communities of urban areas.

"Set it Off" is about four close-knit women who have all had tough breaks in life. They made the best out of growing up in the projects and became, for the most part, honest, hard-working and self-respecting young women. The story starts off with Francesca, a bank clerk, getting held up and witnessing a violent shoot out that her fear crippled her from possibly preventing. A by the numbers detective named Strode blames her for it, causing her to get fired. The story shifts to its main character Lida, Francesca's friend who is a janitor in an upper-class apartment building, soon learning she has to compromise all of her good traits just to break even in life. To help her little brother get some money for college, she gives in to her shady employer's sexual demands. When her brother is coincidentally mistaken for the bank robber by Strode, he is shot and killed with no apologies.

The movie was off to a good start, but I quickly started noticing that its scenes were getting progressively dumber. First off all, Strode seems to be on every case that the L.A.P.D. has to offer. Being that I have heard much praise for this film, I was surprised when more and more coincidences started trying my patience. The movie started feeling like a predictable crowd-pleaser, although it was supposed to be a hard-hitting protest about why the lower class seems to have abandoned.

Any high school or college writing class teaches that to evaluate something is to see how closely or effectively it comes to its intended mark. My problem with "Set it Off" is that it is unclear as to what its mark really is. It shakily walks the line between action movie and socially-conscious drama so much that I started to question how dumb does the screenwriter thought his audience was. Since there is an objective made early on in the script, that there must be a reckoning for the unfair treatment of these women (and the lower-class community at large), it is questionable when it starts to stray.

In his three and a half star (out of four) review of the film, Roger Ebert calls it "observant and well-informed." Sure the film had some very relatable characters and situations, but the screenplay is far from "Observant and well-informed." If anything, the writing is histrionic. A realistic screenplay would have characters who were less heroic and aware of their exploitation. Sure Queen Latifah is fabulous as a gun-toting lesbian, but does such a character really represent underprivileged women? A competent screenplay also wouldn't rely on coincidences and action sequences to make its point.

(1 and 1/2 out of 4)
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truthful and honest
country2130 May 2004
i thought Set it Off showed how versatile Queen Latifah is when it comes to acting. Having only seen her portrayed as attractive i was amazed at how well she took on the role of 'Cleo'. The movie as a whole i thought was good with a strong story line that held true to the end of the film. I applaud Queen Latifah she certainly has what it takes to do any role asked of her. She showed a different side of herself and it paid off. To you Queen Latifah well done. The other members of the cast also played their roles well especially Jada Pinkett. The story was a good one and even brought a little tear to my eye at the end. I think this is a film in which we can all learn something.
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8/10
When you've lost everything, you have nothing left to lose
lastliberal23 October 2005
Set it Off, with Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise. The story of four Black women, all of whom needed money, but, more importantly, all of whom suffered at the hands of the majority causing a change in the direction of their lives. Whether it was being fired so a bank manager can save face, or having your brother shot due to trigger-happy cops, or having you child removed by an unfeeling and uncaring child welfare worker, prejudice worked to change the lives of the women involved and, ultimately, lead to their deaths. A powerful film with a powerful message. This was one of the most enjoyable films I have seen lately.
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