Artisan // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // December 20th, 2002
She's sweet as honey. But she stings like a bee!
Brianna Dukes (whose fitting nickname is Brie, since it accurately describes this cheesy chanteuse) wants to give up on the Nowheresville of a college degree for the glamour and financial security of female boxing. NOT the foxy type, mind you, but the Michael Spinks toothless, Sugar Ray Leonard detached retina, human cannibal Mike Tyson style fisticuffs. She tells her less-than-approving parents of her life plan and Dad immediately hits the law books, hoping to find a way to sue her out of competing (how very '90s). She hooks up with a trainer named Pablo and starts working the local women's boxing clubs of Atlanta (an obvious holdover from the 1996 Olympics) and makes a name for herself knockin' other bee-atches on their smash-mouthed asses. But when a lesbian contender named Lady D threatens to do more to her torso than pummel it, the newly re-monikered Honeybee (for how sickeningly sweet and sappy this whole mess is) must face her prejudices and the physical challenge of meeting the alternative lifestyle pugilist in the ring for the title bout. Will she win the title, or will she quit and take up an even more lucrative career as a chicken sexer?
Rotten to its formulaic core and as believable as gender equity in sports, Honeybee is by far one of the worst independent films made by African Americans ever. There is no joking about something as lame, as rote and as uninvolving as this film. When you find yourself praising Sylvester Stallone for his realistic and evenhanded portrayal of men's boxing, you know there are definite cinematic issues here. The main problem with Honeybee is the story. The script is perfectly standard and cloying, with all the proper emotions and narrative signposts in place to maximize the creaky storyline being played out. The actors more than handle the requirements of being one-dimensional voids, executing their non-roles with ordinary, workmanlike aplomb. And just when you thought that no one could out-execute Ken Wiederhorn and his blistering square circle choreography for Meatballs II, along comes this rope-a-dope waste of time that highlights just how bad fighting on film can be. Never once do you believe that there is any real physical action going on. The phrase "punches like a girl" has extra meaning here, since most of the actresses playing combatants jab like they're drying their Lee Press-on Nails. But the most disturbing aspect of Honeybee is its fraudulent pitch, wanting to sell you a new experience, avoiding convention and breaking the mold by setting its by the book plot barf within the arena of women's boxing. A change of locale, however, does not equate innovation. Honeybee is the same old sour sop without any of the promised sweetness.
Artisan has made a rather pathetic name for itself by playing digital film barrel bottom scraper, and the presentation of Honeybee speaks as loudly about the quality of the movie as anything else does. Full screen, poorly matted, with action occurring off camera and compositions that showcase actors half in and half out of frame, this transfer is mediocre at best, pathetic at its worst. Pixelization is evident at every fadeout, and there is frequent grain (which may be the result of bad mastering or the low budget filming). While presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, the channels get very little workout. Only the subwoofer hums when the random, abysmal hip-hop jars the soundtrack. The few extras on this disc hardly warrant a mention (FYI: a trailer and selected filmography). As a critic, it's hard to constantly berate first time or fledgling filmmakers for not being inventive or entertaining in their struggle to bring their inexpensive, autonomous vision to the screen. But more times than not, the films are as weak as Honeybee and equally as mechanical. Brie Dukes may seem as sweet as a bumble's butt juices, but her movie namesake is as bitter and boring as a wasp's rectum to watch.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated