Love’s battlefield

A sista’s strategy: How to keep him where you want him.

Sep 12, 2001 at 12:00 am

Funny, fresh and elegant rules and moves are all fair in love — and war: Two Can Play That Game. Shanté Smith (Vivica A. Fox) is a sista so fine she could make an old white man testify — and so together that she made it straight out of the Compton ghetto to a big-league, senior executive chair by the age of 28. According to her, men can be “anything-that-moves, humpin’-ass dogs” waitin’ to “show their asses.” Sista’s just “keeping it real,” telling us straight to our faces. And she should know: Her girlfriends (from educated professionals to “ghetto fabulous” ladies) have their hands full with the care and feeding of their men, who want to jump the fence after any bitch that lets her “stuff hang out.” Professor Shanté schools them: Curb that “no good, unable-to-say-no” man — or kick him to the curb, girlfriend.

Easier said than done. When Shanté catches her man, handsome attorney Keith (Morris Chestnut), on the dance floor with her advertising firm’s vice president of marketing (and “bona fide ho”) Connie Spaulding (Gabrielle Union), it’s physician, heal thyself. She’s got to use the 10-day campaign that she’s preached to her faithful crew to check her own man — and protect her rep.

Fox and Chestnut, pros in the sport of comic romance, prove they’ve got game. But they don’t score all the laughs. Anthony Anderson as Tony, Keith’s law firm buddy (and strategist in the battle of the sexes) is an effortlessly hilarious Costello to straighter man Chestnut’s Abbott. Writer-director Mark Brown gets our attention from jump street by having Shanté tell her story directly to us and only missteps by pasting an in-your-face beer product placement into the plot. But one error doesn’t forfeit this funny love match. Two Can Play That Game is a winner.

Read more about the film, including interviews with writer-director Mark Brown and lead actor Vivica A. Fox, in this week's Reckless Eyeballing.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].