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Wednesday, March 18, 1998

Caught Up

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Here begins neo-Blaxploitation, Part One. Caught Up, a ludicrous nest egg of indulgent producers' interests and black actors' faltering careers, is so crass as to invite comparisons to the film era when studios and big-budget companies used black faces and reductive ideas (usually violent ones) to cash in at the box office. And how could writer-director Darin Scott have intended anything else with material like this, an atrocious string of dumb mishaps and situations silly enough to make Jada Pinkett blush?

Unfortunately, the market for mediocre African-American cinema is always strong, and so we have actor Bokeem Woodbine, a hair away from B-movie permanence and not too far from genre-specific greatness, mulling his chops away as Daryl, an ex-convict trying to get over doing an undeserved, five-year bid. The oft-typecast Woodbine, possessing a smooth, circuitous range of action-drama flick skills, is implausible when droning away the film's arbitrary voice-over narrative. So to keep the ball rolling, Scott offers Cynda Williams, she of the hefty bosom, to distract us from the story's problems and general inanity.

Williams as the fortune-teller Vanessa is dazzling (to look at) and just as riveting as anything else here, during the time it takes her to coo at Daryl and bare her tits for some high-polish raunch. It's good to see Cynda sticking to her basics. As for the rest of the "plot," it drudges through crime-story purgatory with dumb, predictable, pointless double-crosses that never should have made it past the pitching room.

But that's just the problem. While the urban picture is rife with possibilities, Scott's directorial debut is too thoughtless and too ridiculous to place anywhere except in between the Foxy Browns and Scream, Blacula, Screams at your neighborhood video store. But then, what should we expect from the producer of that recent romantic gem, Sprung? To quote Caught Up's promotional poster: "There's two rules in this game. Do or die." Better still, do this and you might be dead.

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