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Take Two 

by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Waist Deep & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & irst off: despite being from Watts, Tyrese Gibson, star of Waist Deep, cannot channel a street accent. He sounds like he's from Sherman Oaks -- or Mayberry -- not the projects.


But that's the least of this film's problems. I'm going to wax philosophical in a second and talk about all the mixed messages the film sends, but we need to get some basics out of the way first. Waist Deep tries to be an action film. It fails by being listless, jerky and not really all that action-packed. Waist Deep tries to be hip-hop. It fails by shamelessly aping rap videos -- or rather, it shamelessly apes Darrin Aronofsky's rap aping from Requiem for a Dream. Waist Deep tries to convey a message about the reality of life on the street, but all it ends up doing is trying to fashion a murderer into a hero. It fails at that, too.


O2 (Tyrese) gets carjacked and his son is stolen from him and held for ransom by a kingpin named Big Meat (The Game, looking simultaneously menacing and cartoonish). O2 has to come up with $100,000 in a day and a half or the boy, Junior, dies. So O, along with a sexy cohort named Coco (Meagan Goode), begins a not-so-complicated plan of turning mafia bosses against each other and profiting off it. And it would have worked, too, if O's cousin Lucky (Larenz Tate at his absolute worst) weren't always up on the forties and blunts.


An aspect of the scheme involves robbing safe deposit boxes held by Big Meat, which gets O and Coco all over the news, turning them into celebrities. A clerk calls them "like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde or somethin'," which they are, except that, after killing a bunch of people, they live happily ever after. Early 'hood films were naturalistic accounts of a system of law so broken and neglectful that the young poor couldn't help but live outside it. Waist Deep represents the most flippant take on that, replacing tragic heroes with villains painted up as folk heroes. Bonnie and Clyde weren't good people; neither are O2 and Coco.


Other messages that Waist Deep sends:


& lt;ul & & lt;li & O2 tells his kid not to hit people right after asking him if he'd beaten a bully's ass. Message: Beat people up. & lt;/li & & lt;li & O says "you never hit a woman," as he pistol whips some dude for slapping Coco, five minutes after he'd put a gun in her mouth. Message: Don't abuse women -- unless you need to. And if you need to, only abuse them psychologically, not physically. & lt;/li & & lt;li & Lucky gets jacked within earshot of a peace rally. AK-47s and Mac 10s are shoved in his face in broad daylight and he's stuffed into a car. The activists don't even notice. Message: Activism is flaccid. A group of concerned citizens cannot change the world. Buy a gun and an extra deadbolt. & lt;/li & & lt;li & Tyrese is a pretty face and a bad actor. He's gained weight, which means there's lots of extra marbling in that man-meat. (A vivid image for a ballooning former model, because I care.) He's not so pretty any more, but he's also less menacing. Message: Stay skinny. & lt;/li & & lt;li & O2 is a security guard who carries a gun. He got the job as part of a state transition program -- like, transition from jail, where he'd been sent for gang activity. Message: The state of California freely gives guns to felons. & lt;/li & & lt;/ul &


It would be silly to go and proclaim Waist Deep the worst movie of all time. Once you get past a certain point, really bad is really bad, and ranking something as "worst" becomes superfluous. There's a nice even spectrum stretching from great films to really good films to just good, and so on. Once you get to the far end, though, the spectrum balloons and sags into a bulbous pile of unrankable crap. Waist Deep is very much at home in that pile.

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