Yo yo, o fa-show! My boy M-Dog, Tha Hatta, busts a cap in this fake jack excuse to sell some bling. True that.
This time, everything is on the line.
"I want to be looked at like Spielberg. I want to be able to walk into a room with Spielberg and have him respect me as if he's saying, 'He might be just as good as me or better.'"—Director Damon Dash
(Insert hysterical laughter here.)
Facts of the Case
While serving time for crimes that are never really identified, a drug kingpin named Beans (Beanie Sigel) meets a fellow convict named El Pollo Loco (Victor "N.O.R.E." Santiago). When Loco is paroled, he does Beans a favor and takes the reins of the other man's faltering drug empire. While carrying out what he believes are orders from his old boss, Baby Boy (Omillio Sparks), Beans' right-hand man, unwittingly steals some cocaine belonging to Dame (Damon Dash), a drug lord who controls much of Philadelphia's criminal underground. Double- and triple-crosses follow, violence erupts, and former enemies find themselves joining forces to battle a common enemy. Or something like that.
I have said it before, and I will probably say it again, but I think it bears repeating: not everyone with the finances required to make a movie has the talent required to make a movie. In the case of State Property 2, the person who has the money but lacks the talent is Damon Dash. Dash, who is credited as producer, director, and co-star, is primarily known as a music industry bigwig, although he also dabbles in the worlds of clothing and alcoholic beverages. The cast of this movie is populated by hip-hop artists from his record label. The characters in the movie wear clothes from his clothing line and drink his brand of vodka. In print interviews and on this disc's commentary, Dash intimates that the film is solely his creation. Despite receiving a simple co-story credit, Dash says he wrote the script and improvised characters and scenes for any of his friends who happened to show up on the set. He purportedly even schooled the director of photography in the art of shooting a film (I'd like to hear what cinematographer Tom Houghton, who has worked on real films, has to say about that). Dash seems to think he is a Renaissance man, but he is really just an egomaniac with a fat bank account and too much free time on his hands.
State Property 2 (I haven't seen the original movie, nor do I want to, but in the end it doesn't really matter) comes across as little more than a 94-minute commercial made by a guy who is a master of self-promotion. How else can you describe a movie in which the director so blatantly highlights the people and products from which he earns a living? Shots are set up so that Roc-A-Wear clothing labels are prominently featured in the frame (even in the movie's numerous flashback scenes, which are set at least a decade before the clothing line hit the streets), and there is a blurb on the back of the DVD case promoting a line of sneakers and shoes inspired by the movie. Bottles of Armandale are thrust at the camera (Dash bought a controlling interest in Armandale back in 2002, because he's a big vodka drinker and didn't like the idea of someone else making money off a product he enjoyed). The characters are named for the hip-hoppers who portray them, which makes it easier for anyone who's interested to find and purchase their records. (Dash's entrepreneurial spirit was spoofed on an early episode of Chappelle's Show; I seriously doubt he got the joke.) Hell, in interviews, Dash has stated that because radio stations wouldn't play Beanie's singles (nor MTV, his videos), this movie was more or less designed as a way to promote Sigel. I'll give Dash points for being honest about his intentions, but I'm a bit taken aback by the obvious contempt he has for his audience.
Okay, so what about the film's artistic merits and entertainment value? Yeah, right. It's a complete failure in both regards. Dash has no cinematic talent whatsoever. He doesn't know how to fill a frame, nor does he know anything about pacing or storytelling. Static shots follow static shots, and the movie lumbers from plot point to plot point (it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either). Whenever a new character is introduced, a long, drawn-out flashback details his criminal past, complete with narration from his point of view, but this does nothing to help distinguish the players. Speaking of the characters, every single one is a stereotype. The black and Hispanic males are all thugs and gangstas (there's even a shot of Loco as a toddler playing in a pile of cocaine, which is apparently meant to be funny). The women are all slutty bitches (except for the ones who are bitchy sluts). The white characters, be they cops, judges, or wardens, are all crooked racists. If a line of dialogue doesn't contain an f-bomb, it contains at least one use of the n-word. There are several unfunny attempts at comic relief, the least funny of which are Ol' Dirty Bastard picking his nose while cooking hamburgers and Mariah Carey whining about the size of her chartered jet. (Carey, who is upstaged by the very revealing top she wears, seems to be in the movie for no other reason than to prove she can actually appear in something worse than Glitter.) Oh, yeah, I haven't mentioned the action scenes. Oh, man, you should see them (well, not really). Just imagine a scene in which several people stand on opposite sides of a street, fire 9,000 rounds at each other (always with the guns held sideways), but never seem to hit anything. And talk about production values! The gunshots are represented by canned sound effects, which are often dropped in at moments when you can see that a character isn't pulling the trigger, or when a gun would in fact be empty (as in the climactic shootout, during which Sigel somehow manages to squeeze five more shots out of an empty Beretta). I'm thinking there wasn't money for squibs or blood packs, either: early in the movie, a drug dealer is shot in the chest, but he doesn't bleed, and the bullet doesn't leave a hole in his jacket. I guess the jacket had to go back on the rack so Dash could sell it. As for the acting, the less said the better.
The video quality is about what you'd expect from a shot-on-the-cheap, glorified home movie. There's a drab, grungy, gritty look to much of the movie, which does seem to fit the proceedings, but there's an overabundance of grain and noise in the darker scenes, of which there are many. Both the stereo and 5.1 audio options are more than a little flat, although there's some decent surround and bass action in scenes featuring songs from the movie's soundtrack (you knew there'd be a soundtrack, didn't you?). Extras include trailers for other Lions Gate releases, as well as a commentary track from Damon Dash and Beth Melillo, the movie's executive producer. As can be expected, Dash dominates the track, explaining how he's responsible for pretty much every aspect of the movie. He also discusses why he used flashbacks to change the plot of the original State Property (Dash didn't direct that one, so in his mind I suppose that means it doesn't really count), as well as the irony of shooting scenes of Sigel's character on trial while the real Sigel actually was on trial. (During production Sigel was being tried for allegedly shooting a man outside a strip club. A mistrial was eventually declared, although Sigel was later sent to prison on drug and weapons convictions.) Dash also talks about films he stole from—whoops, make that is paying homage to—such as Snatch, Goodfellas, Scarface (duh), and City of God (hearing Dash mention that last one made me want to cry). As if his hubris weren't enough, Dash mumbles, uses slang I couldn't understand, and ends each sentence with "you know what I mean?" Ugh.
I'd like to close with another quote from Damon Dash: "I'm definitely a student of the game, and so eventually I think that I'll be as good as Spielberg. And not that I'm ready now to be as good as him, but eventually I aspire to be that good or as good as Martin Scorsese or Stephen Soderbergh, all of those different people."
(Give me a minute—I'm still laughing.)
It's as guilty as guilty can be. You know what I mean?
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Scales of Justice
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