I wanted a challenge for this month’s Black TNT. Any idiot can sit down and review a movie everybody knows, like Glory, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, or Belly. It takes some real due diligence to track down a lesser-known flick like A Piece of the Action. Some of these lesser-known flicks I’ve reviewed tend to be so because they’re pretty old, or nobody saw them. I doubt a lot of Time Nerds would have known about Which Way Is Up? unless they read this series or, like me, happened to be watching the right channel at the right time. Anyway, the New Year is upon us, and that means a whole slew of more recent obscure trash is up for grabs. Enter today’s entry, Getting Played.
This is a TV movie that had my wife seriously concerned for my sanity. Why? Because I outright told her I was feeling reckless and in need of a bad movie to savage, and with Stacey Dash’s recent comments about Black History Month and the BET Awards still ringing in people’s heads, my choice couldn’t have been more serendipitous. After all, Miss Dash thinks that black people shouldn’t need things like the BET Awards and Black History Month to highlight our accomplishments. What better way to prove her wrong than to use this, a series that highlights black movies, to prove her wrong? It’s not like most white folks would take time out to track a movie like this down. Or most black folks, come to think of it. What the hell am I doing here?
This rom-com opens up… weird, to say the least, as a burglar silently prowls around a house, looking for swag.
Enter the man who lives there, brandishing a firearm saying, “Freeze! I have a gun, and I know how to use it.” Knowing the voice, a wave of irritation and disappointment washes over me.
Now, see, it literally hasn’t even been a minute in and this movie’s already made it personal. Michael Jai White happens to be one of my favorite actors. His Tyler Perry projects notwithstanding, I like some of his work – Blood & Bone, Black Dynamite, to name a few. The man is better than this. Maybe he had a parking ticket to work off or something. I was just gonna go with my normal format; background info, basic plot, pros, cons, sum-up. But between Dash and the degradation of MJW, I think this dreck requires a more… in-depth look, don’t you? Grab a seat and a snack, this is gonna take a while.
Ok, so White has the burglar dead to rights at gunpoint, yammering about how criminals always return to the scene of the crime, apparently he’d been robbed before, blah blah blah. He demands the burglar unmask before he calls the police. The thief obliges, revealing a contrite Vivica A. Fox, the queen of bad black movies herself. She begs White not to call the police, asking whether they can work something out and eventually stripping down to her bustier. Immediately I check the movie again, wondering whether I’d gotten the wrong one and gotten ahold of some desperate pre-fame porno instead. But no, they’re just shooting a movie. Damn.
Vivica goes to have lunch with her agent, who tells her that Paramount wants her to be in The Smurfs movie, and they want Spike Lee to direct. Other than Donald Trump launching a successful rap career, or a watchable episode of Love & Hip Hop, I can’t imagine something less likely to happen. As the (white) agent keeps telling Viv about the various projects studios and networks want her to do, I can’t help but notice that the writers have seen fit to have the agent speak “black” slang. I know this is supposed to be a comedy, but white people “talking black” is not funny. Never has been. Never will be. Every time she says something like “It’s the bomb! It’s gonna blow up,” I have to pause the movie and resist the urge to bash my forehead into the keyboard. It’s a testament to Fox’s acting that she doesn’t roll her eyes every time Mindy Sterling says “It was wack.” Maybe they were going for some inversion of the token sassy black friend by writing a token sassy white friend, but it doesn’t work. It’s just stupid.
Next scene begins with some weird, pointless eight-second Dave Navarro cameo (complete with him turning his head back to the camera as if to say, “Hey folks! It’s really me, Dave Navarro. I’m just here because my wife’s in this movie and the director wanted to milk it for all it’s worth.”). Stacey Dash, the guest of dishonor, joins Fox and Navarro’s then-wife, Carmen Electra, at a restaurant, crying about a breakup. They share the deets of their weekends, such as Carmen’s colon cleanse (ill…), and eventually Fox brags that there isn’t a man in the world that she couldn’t have if she wanted him, and in 2005, I’ll admit it was hard to argue. Ditto Carmen. And Stacey, for that matter. They go on to say that all men are the same, five words guaranteed to bring the red mist down on my eyes every time. Dash is skeptical, and it makes me sad that this is probably the last time she said anything that made sense.
Viv proposes “a simple wager,” that they each take turns trying to seduce a man, completely at random, just to prove her point. Each woman has one night and one try to bring it off, and they have to tape it. Dash clutches her pearls, saying “Oh my God, you guys! What would my therapist say,” and with that read, the first real laugh I’ve gotten out of this whole movie comes out. For anyone wondering why it is that Single Ladies didn’t pan out and Stacey Dash is now cooning it up for Fox News, it’s because of acting like this:
And who is this random man? After a gag that goes on way too long, in which they pass up on a fat man, a bald man, a blind man, and two women (sounds like a bad “… walk into a bar” joke), they decide on Bill Bellamy. My worst fears about this movie have been confirmed; this flick is trying to be How To Be A Player, Two Can Play That Game, and In The Company of Men all rolled into one awkward, poorly executed mess. This is going to hurt. A lot.
Anyway, they decide on Bellamy and Viv goes first. She quite literally bumps into him the next day and uses the opportunity to entice him into asking her out. Here we find out that Bellamy was once engaged, until he discovered that his fiancée was cheating on him with another man. Fox plays the sympathetic ear for all it’s worth and invites him back to her place. While he’s in the bathroom, she sets up the camera, which in the maybe seven seconds it took him to get back (huh? Who goes to the bathroom that fast? And why is he holding a drink?), she has ready to go. Bill puts on some truly godawful music while she herself leaves the room and notices she has pictures of herself all over the house. Something tells me this isn’t too far from what Vivica’s real house looks like. Probably is her real house. Would have saved loads on production…
So she comes back in lingerie and immediately jumps his bones, wet with the prospect of winning the bet. What does she win, anyway? They never said. She asks him to strip for her, and he obliges. Here, I quickly learn a valuable lesson: never try to eat and watch a movie like this. If there’s one thing guaranteed to kill a straight man’s appetite, it’s the prospect of another man getting butt-ass naked. Bellamy really gets into it, going so far as to smack his own ass as Vivica cheers him on. I may be ill. How long is this song? The same song’s been playing this whole time, mind you. Finally, mercifully, Fox puts an end to this stupidity, does the deed and then kicks him out, not even letting him get dressed. Joke’s on Viv, though: the camera didn’t record a thing. That actually got a smirk out of me.
The second real laugh this movie produces is when Fox and Electra engage in a weird pissing contest at their gym. They take turns hitting the heavy bag when Fox hits the thing so hard it knocks Electra out of the frame. By the way, do women do that? I know men occasionally compare the size of their, um, weights, but do women feel the need to outperform each other physically in a gym setting? Somebody get back to me about that.
Ok, so shots of Beverly Hills, played over music dated even by 2005 standards, and Electra pulls up to a house to meet Bellamy, who’s dressed in a white suit like a low-rent Scarface. Apparently they’re here so Bill can show her a house. Well, not a house so much as a mansion. Anyway, because the plot demands it, he asks her out as well, to a comedy club that Saturday.
He meets up with his friend Guy Torry at a bar, where we find out that Bill wasn’t all that random. It turns out he was in the next booth when the ladies made their bet, heard every word they said, snuck out and sprinted outside and around the block to make sure he was the man they chose to seduce. Gotta admit, I was not expecting that twist. It’s not bad. Let’s see if this actually goes anywhere. Bet you anything he sabotaged Vivica’s camera. Apparently, to hear Bellamy tell it, Vivica is quite the freak. Considering what she supposedly got up to with 50 Cent, I’m not surprised. She sure does like her salad. And I hate it when I’m right: he sabotaged the camera.
By the way, I’m getting very strange gay-for-Bellamy vibes off Torry. He’s out of a relationship and has been quite… hands-on with his recovery, shall we say. Plus, he’s kinda touchy with Bill; even he’s a little weirded out. So during Bellamy and Electra’s date, she mentions that she now wants to help the homeless. She says, “I’ve done well for myself and I want to give something back.” Dennis Rodman? No thanks. I hear North Korea’s in need of a clown, though.
Bill pretends to have a headache and tries to call it a night, but Carmen will have none of it. In the next scene, he’s at her place, moaning and groaning off screen. Bet you she’s just giving him a massage and… yep, massage. Damn it, movie, you’re not even trying to make me laugh anymore. Set up a heavy bag and make somebody fly off camera, for God’s sake!
Carmen decides to slip into something more comfortable, and then slip out of something more comfortable by giving Bill a strip show. This being a TV movie, of course, you will see nothing particularly naughty. If you want to see Carmen Electra nude that badly, Google it like everyone else. In the middle of this very serviceable tease, she whispers, “I want to make love to you.” Who the f**k says that in real conversation? Women who want to get it on usually say something a little more explicit or real, like “I want that d**k,” “I’m so wet for you right now,” or “Do you have a condom?” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman tell me she wanted to make love to me. Again, get back to me about that.
Where Vivica tried to hide the camera, Carmen flat out picks it up and says she likes to film it. Bellamy naturally balks at this, not wanting to let Electra win and screwing up his chance at a smash with Miss Dash (hey, that rhymed!). She begs, and he agrees. Five minutes later, they’ve done the deed and her dumb ass leaves the room, giving Bill a chance to switch tapes. The next day, she brings the tape over to Fox’s house so they can all watch. I’ve noticed that each woman so far has been quite vague when asked about Bellamy’s performance; they don’t give straight answers, really. I know it’s fiction and all, but this is probably why Bill Bellamy doesn’t really do movies like this anymore – people think he’s bad in bed. Kinda kills your prospects as a romantic lead if folks don’t think you can, um, rise to the occasion.
Imagine Electra’s surprise when she sees an episode of Jerry Springer instead of her shenanigans with Bill Bellamy. It’s just as well; Jerry is far more entertaining than this crap.
Dash suggests that maybe she switched the tape, and this should have been her clue that something was up. But of course, Electra’s too stupid and pissed about losing the bet, so we have to suffer through more. Stacey, playing the Charlotte York of the group, has had reservations about this bet from the jump, and wants to call it off. But again, stupid, pissed, we suffer.
Dash meets Bellamy at a park, where she’s reading Why Men Love Bitches. Insert your own joke here, I’m too tired at this point. She goes on to say that her friends think she’s too nice. These days, I’d hate to meet her friends if they think that about her. I should have mentioned earlier that the background music is so poorly mixed that it’s not so much background music as foreground music. It’s pretty loud. And distracting. And not all that great. I wish it would stop. It does provide the backdrop for a “talk all day till the sunset” montage, because that’s exactly what Bill and Stacey do. It’s now the dead of night, and… f**k’s sake, are they still there? They are! And Bellamy’s still talking! What could you possibly have to talk about that takes all afternoon until well into the evening?
Anyway, Fox conspires to sabotage Stacey’s turn by tipping off Bill. Fox’s acting is so over-the-top diabolical I’m surprised she didn’t spontaneously sprout a mustache to twirl in this scene. Electra tries to talk her out of it, but no dice. Meanwhile Bill’s getting cold feet; he really likes Stacey, but can’t see how he can tell her the truth, considering he did the nasty with her friends. Torry tells him to do her anyway, then goes home to jerk off to some porn. I wish I was kidding. God, how I wish I was kidding.
Guy’s interrupted first by Bill’s phone call – though he wasn’t exactly going to stop; told you he gives me weird vibes – and then by a hot neighbor who’s locked herself out of her apartment. He fixes the lock, and she invites him in for wine and sex. This subplot just came the hell out of nowhere. Did I mention there’s only fifteen minutes left in this movie and this likely adds nothing at all but some unnecessary padding? By the way, I don’t know of any woman who’d give a man some just because he fixed her door. Locksmiths must get all kinds of cooch, then. Between this and dancing, I obviously was in the wrong business before I got married.
Torry decides to do his pre-sex happy dance in the mirror before he does the deed. I don’t know about other men, but I’ve never done this. You’re wasting energy, time, not to mention making an absolute ass of yourself. I swear this only happens in movies and on TV. And if you’ve done it, spare yourself some dignity – don’t tell me about it. This dance goes on for quite a while until the young lady yells at him to hurry up and bang her already. Well, that was pointless! Glad they decided to put that scene in.
Back at the ranch, Stacey meets Bill for dinner at Electra’s restaurant. He must really like her; he brought her flowers, pulled out her chair, going full gentleman for Miss Dash. Vivica and Carmen are spying on them via the restaurant’s surveillance camera. Oh, and Stacey’s therapist is here, too, hiding behind a menu. Dash somehow ninjas herself behind the nosy chick and tells her to leave. No dice. Stacey loses her nerve and comes clean about everything, but admits that she really liked him and wanted to meet him. Bill in turn admits that he made himself a ringer, and Dash storms away from the table. Bellamy catches up to her and sits her down at a table already occupied by… Tichina Arnold and Earthquake?! What the f**k are these two doing here? Good Lord, this is random. Anybody else want a bit part? Maybe call up Fred Williamson and Gloria Hendry, see if they’re free? Can Bow Wow and Teairra Marí take time out of their busy schedules to make a cameo?
Anyway, Bellamy goes through the whole spiel – blah blah blah, I didn’t plan this, blah blah blah, I was lucky to meet you, yadda yadda. They agree to start over, they walk off into the sunset (well, not really, it’s already night). The End. Only it’s not the end, because they had to pad out the last two or three minutes with outtakes far and away funnier than the actual movie. Why couldn’t it have been just an hour and a half of outtakes instead? That would have been entertaining, at least.
Truth be told, I’ve seen worse movies. Stacey Dash, as much as I hate to admit it, isn’t a terrible leading lady. She contrasts against the conniving Fox and Electra rather nicely. Bellamy is not bad, either, as he knows how to play sincere opposite Dash. Fox, though devious from the start, seemed to pledge to take it over the top… and then doesn’t. Her vow to wreck her friend’s budding relationship goes nowhere. It’s just one more instance of a plot thread that shows up, peters out and dies. Even the question of “Are all men the same?” is left unexplored; the men we see in this flick mostly play to stereotype. We get some pretty good shots of Los Angeles, but they’re often diminished by awkward transitions and a dated, intrusive soundtrack. The jokes and the writing are mediocre at best. Tichina Arnold and Earthquake are memorable, but they come too late and aren’t nearly enough to save this movie. Frankly, Time Nerds, skip this one. I, for one, would like my hour and a half back.
Have a suggestion for Black TNT? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Suggestions must feature a mostly- or all-black cast, or a prominent black character and be at least ten years old.