The Player’s Club - *

Oh boy! Another foray into the world of strippers! Are there any stories here that haven’t been told? Are there interesting ways to present tired material? Well, if there are, you wouldn’t know it from The Player’s Club.

Diana Armstrong (LisaRaye) is an unwed mother and college student struggling to barely get by. One day, while on her job at a local shoe store, she meets two strippers, Ronnie and Tricks (Chrystale Wilson and Adele Givens), who advise her to join them in a new career at The Player’s Club.

The Player’s Club is a gentleman’s club (aka strip bar) owned by the supposedly colorful Dollar Bill (Bernie Mac). Dollar is heavily in debt, but hires Diana on the spot, hoping a new young body will bring in more dough.

Diana puts her dignity aside, and prospers in the job, seeing it as merely a temporary money-making venture while she completes her education. However, trouble ensues when her young cousin, Ebony (Monica Calhoun), idolizing Diana’s lifestyle, decides to work at the club as well, and go farther than she wisely should.

The plight of the stripper is hardly anything new, having recently been covered by several bad movies (Showgirls, and Striptease). And while The Player’s Club tries to put an ethnic spin on the story, the result is not much better.

Ice Cube makes his directoral debut with this movie, and, of course, gives himself a bit part as a lowlife who frequents the club. His direction is serviceable, but uninspired. He fares much worse as the film’s screenwriter, surviving barely on the merits that his dialogue never plummets to the depths of Showgirls.

There are a couple of stories here that could have been interesting, but instead are relegated to pointless subplots. Diana’s relationship with an inspirational college professor, and the conflict of her protective father and her boyfriend (and club DJ) Blue (Jamie Foxx) are both stories that had much more potential than the mundane fare that fills the rest of the movie.

LisaRaye does the best she can with the “stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold” role. But, like virtually every other character here, she’s void of personality, and is merely a loose collection of stereotypes.

The Player’s Club is an inauspicious directing debut for Ice Cube. Hopefully his future efforts will be better than this unimaginative outing… it won’t be hard.

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