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4.5 out of 5 stars43
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on December 3, 2002
"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.
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.
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on September 20, 2001
Four Black women struggling with trying to keep afloat and fighting off the biting sharks of poverty: One a single mother, another a single woman raising her only sibling: a brother, another who was wrongfully terminated from her position as a bank teller after a robbery-gone-bad, and another just fed up with her position working for Luther, the foul-mouthed owner of his own janitorial company. For each of their own individual reason, they all band together and decide to pull their own bank heist. Disguised in wigs and clear masks, they coolly and calmly walk into banks and demand money. To make matters more complicated, Stoney {Pinkett} meets and begins to fall for a branch manager played by Blair Underwood. While working for Luther, the discover he runs out with their money, and now they have to "hit" the bank one more time. With the police hot on their trail, the ill-conceived robberies fly out of control. This movie is filled with emotion, honesty, and a tragic ending. Guest appearances by Dr Dre as Black Sam and Dub-C as one of the bank robbers. This movie is a real crowd pleaser!!!
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on April 16, 2001
This is one of the best movies. I could understand what everyone of the characters were enduring. I have to give much props to Queen La b/c she has endured much controversy & gossip b/c of her character Cleo. Each women were involved in the life of crime because of different reasons. When you are constantly seen in negative light, never seeming to amount to anything, and always told of what you won't be able to accomplish you think, so what, who cares what I do. That's how Frankie (Vivica A. Fox) and Stony (Jada Pinkett-Smith) both felt. Frankie got involved in robbing banks after she was accused of helping the man that pointed a gun to her head and robbed the bank she worked in just because they were from the same sides of the track. Stony saw her brother gunned down because he was the victim of police violence. It didn't matter that her brother was going to college and that he happen to be friends with the wrong people, all they seen was another black boy that needed to be taken down. All they wanted was a life better than what they had, which wasn't much. You see the life on television that others seem to have, but for you, it's always out of reaching distance. This is a great movie with a really sad ending. I cried out for Stony because she really got the bad end of the deal, even though she's the only one that made it out.
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on October 19, 2000
F. Gary Gray is one of the most talented directors today (not black directors, but director, period!) A film major, I look forward to the day I meet him.
I can't watch this movie when I am down, because it will make me think life just ain't worth living. It has a very very depressing ending. But overall, the narrative was excellent. Each one of the girls had a motive, whether it was directly indicated or not. Black intellects trash this movie because they see it as trapping African Americans in the Boyz N the Hood genre (which was also an excellent film). But they fail to see there are so many stories within the inner cities of African Americans. It is not just about robbing banks, gangs, or drugs, it is out survival, loyalty and frienship. Which I think mainstream America really does not understand and why I think so many black women go to jail for protecting their men involved in illegal activities.
Not to veer off the subject, but set it off is about loyalty and true friendship, (just like waiting to exhale, just a different neighborhood) with a fresh twist. Hats off to F. Gary Gray!
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on August 15, 2000
The characters in this story were so believable. One rough and rugged, one sweet and gentle, one sophisticated and wild, and one sensible and laid back. Although these women had such varying personalities, the genuine friendship between the four looked natural and unforced. They lived mundane lives, just struggling to make ends meet. And then, they are faced with trauma that sends them over the edge, one loses her job, and almost her life, in a bank hold-up - and is accused of being involved. Another loses her kid brother after he's shot by police officers when they mistake him for someone else. That's when they decide that the only way to make it out of their situation is to get fast money - by robbing banks. The humor at the beginning of the movie and in the first bank heist disappears, however, as these women become wanted and are risking their lives to pull off one last robbery. By the end of the movie, I felt like I had lost a few good friends.
This is a great movie with a combination of romance, humor, and hard-hitting action that centers around a group of women (for a change.) - And they don't go out like Thelma and Louise either!
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on June 7, 2000
Ah man when I first saw this movie I watched it like 3 times the first night. I mean it's da bomb I mean you know how they always have the movies where the men do the wild and bad things and the women are just these stupid girls who sleep with them to get money, but gary layed the rules down in this movie,and showed people that men aren't the only ones who can be bad women can do anything men can do probably even better. You see how good these girls were I mean they was just doing they thang, but it was sad at the end, because spooney(jada pinkett) was the only one left and she was rememberin what they did earlier in the movie while they were robbing banks, and everybody got killed at the end except for her. That was soo sad but I do agree her relationship with blair underwood was a one night stand and it did kind of drag the movie but that was the only mistake otherwise this movie is off the hook if you haven't seen it yet you betta run to the video store and get it now because you missing out on a lot.
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on May 22, 1999
Feisty, spirited and ultimately tragic tale of four working class African-American women who decide to hold up banks when the "system" holds them back. All four women deliver strong, intense and hot-blooded performances, which more than compensates for the lack of character development and motivation. I would have like to see director Gray delve more into what made them decide to rob the banks. We are not given a strong idea as to what made the women tick, other than a need for money (though Jada Pinkett's character, Spooney, has some justification, seeing her innocent brother murdered by the LAPD). Visually, Gray offers nothing new, but does everything with a sense of urgency and gusto. Ultimately, SET IT OFF deserves praise for putting a new twist on a rather tired genre.
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on August 10, 2003
Well, in this crime thriller Queen Latifah Jada Pinkett Vivica A Fox and Kimberly Elise are 4 friends Stony (Jada Pinkett) is a sister of stevie She tries to help stevie get into college Cleo (Queen Latifah) Is a lesbian who has been fixing up a car eversince she was little.Frankie(Vivica Fox)is a hard-working bank teller and got fired for not stopping the bank robbers and the last Tishean (Kimberly Elise) Is a single mom who has a child but now since she dosen't have a baby sitter and the chuild protecter services are trying to take the child and when the four fri4ends have a problem and tey rob all the city banks and the sad part was cleo frankie and tishean die stony goes to mexico and lives the rest of her life
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on July 7, 1999
I thought that the movie would be another 'Waiting to Exhale' and a friend of mine said to me "This movie is great, you have to watch it!" I thought that I would give it a try. Watching it one night the movie made such an impact on me that I was crying from almost the begining credits. I think that the charactors are ones that people can identify with and feel sorry for... I especially thought that Jada Pinkett Smith played her role with brillience and Queen LaTefa played her role stunningly. I was quite moved by Cleo, she had real class. All in all a great movie... a must for all people with hearts!!
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on February 12, 2004
I was pretty amazed at how a good a film this turned out to be..The girl who played Latifah's g/f is a one hot broad..Personally, I didn't really see how all the controversy about Latifah being a lesbian got to the magnitude that it reached..The love scenes b/w Latifah and the other girl were not explicit at all..
Back to the film--Great film..Combined all the elements, love, suspense,action, drama etc...
Film does have some dragging moments, but all in all, its a must see and the ending is one of the better endings that I have seen...
4 out of 5 stars in my book.....
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