Set It Off - * 1/2*

This hybrid of Waiting to Exhale and Dead Presidents is chock full of predictable situations and flat characters. The film opens strongly, as Frankie (Vivica A. Fox), a bank teller, recognizes one of the armed men who rob her bank. Because of this acquaintance, she is fired, and set upon a course of desperation that will last the entire movie. Unfortunately, this opening is the first and last time Frankie gets any character development. It seems as if her entire life revolves around that one instant. But she’s no worse off than her friends, who are each introduced with a token, character-defining tragedy. There’s Tisean (Kimberly Elise), a single mother who can’t afford child care…and subsequently loses her baby to Social Services. There’s Stony (Jada Pinkett), who struggles and struggles to give her little brother a break, only to lose everything. And then there’s Cleo (Queen Latifah), a lesbian with an attitude (it seems the producers thought that was tragedy enough). These four friends, now all working for a janitorial service, decide they need a leg up…and bank robbery is just the thing that’ll help them out of the projects and on to better lives. Of the four, only Stony receives any further development at all, and subsequently is the most interesting of the bunch. While casing a bank, she meets a well off bank executive (Blair Underwood), who asks her out. They begin dating, but she hesitates to tell him of her secret existence. Now, the four friends soon find out that one bank isn’t enough…so they hit another, and another… see if you can guess where this story is going… Most of the action scenes seem rather stale, we’ve seen most of this stuff before. The only twist this time, is that black women are doing the action, and while that may be enough for some…trust me, it doesn’t do much to overcome the tired situations. Instead of plot developments and plot devices, they throw in idiotic characters and highly improbable actions. Set It Off never does, and remains a pitiful dud.

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