Out of Sync

Director: Debbie Allen      
Cast: LL Cool J, Victoria Dillard, Yaphet Kotto, Howard Hessman

In his autobiography, LL Cool J mentioned that Out of Sync cost a million dollars to make but only made $9,000 in theaters. I have my doubts on the film's budget being that low, but I do believe the gross. Slow, predictable, and with no sympathetic main characters, the movie is out of gas even before it begins.

Things for Jason (LL Cool J) are getting worse every day; the former ex-convict's gambling addiction has placed him $30,000 in debt to a couple of sadistic loansharks, and barely gets by with his  job as a DJ to various underground clubs in L.A. His former mob-boss Simon offers him high-paying work at his private club, but Jason refuses because Simon ratted on him in a plea-bargain with prosecutors. And his mentor "Q" (Kotto), who runs the neighborhood pool hall refuses to bail him out, in an effort to try to force Jason to get his act together. Jason then works several days at different underground clubs (actually, it looks like the same empty warehouse shot at different angles), and one night the cops make a raid. At the police station, Jason is offered a deal by a shifty police sergeant (Hessman, unrecognizable at first glance): Charges will be dropped and the loansharks will be ordered to leave Jason alone - if Jason works for Simon as an undercover agent.

Jason reluctantly agrees to the deal, and starts working at Simon's club. He soon meets Simon's black girlfriend Monica, who secretly confides to Jason that she's unhappy being with Simon. The two fall for each other, and secretly meet for their rendezvous (including one laughable bit at the city zoo). Monica soon convinces Jason to help her rob one of Simon's upcoming deliveries of money, and manage to do so without being seen. Meeting afterwards, Monica gets Jason drunk and steals the money and disappears. Simon soon figures out who stole the money, and sends out his goons. I can understand how he figured out Monica, but it's never explained how he figured out Jason - in fact, one of Jason's friends even brings up this question. With nowhere to turn, Jason quickly realizes that only he can save himself.

Since this movie was sponsored by BET (the Black Entertainment TV network), it doesn't come as a surprise that all of the white characters are portrayed as bad and/or corrupt. In fairness, Monica is eventually revealed to be harsh, and Jason has no one to blame but himself for all of his problems; he didn't have to commit crimes, gamble, or go to loansharks but he did all the same. In one of the few interesting scenes later on, the corrupt sergeant tells him, "I gave you the chance to do something decent!" But there's no reason to be interested in his unsympathetic character. He isn't even a good DJ, hardly doing anything except playing records at the clubs (he gets paid thousands of dollars just for that?), and when he does DJ the crowd, his speech doesn't get any more sophisticated than, "Uh uh uh shake it up. Uh uh uh shake it up. Uh uh uh shake it up." Kotto's character is the only one who's remotely likable, despite his unusually half-hearted performance and being in only three or four scenes.

Script-wise, it isn't much better. The story is not only slow, but so dull that the producers threw in a long and irrelevant car-chase in the middle to try to get the audience's attention - a foolish move, because the film was obviously trying to be more in the film noir genre. Though with or without the chase, the movie ultimately fails not only because of the slow and dull story, but of its utter predictability. Not only does the audience have to slog through a story where they can guess what will happen next, they are rewarded at the end with a climax that is incredibly underwhelming: Simon gets killed, the corrupt sergeant gets arrested by the precinct's honest (black) sergeant, and Jason gets all of the money and pays off his debt. Don't complain - you knew what was going to happen before I wrote it. And for those one or two who may not have guessed: (1) I did you a favor spoiling the movie, so you now don't have an excuse to watch it, and (2) you obviously haven't watched many movies in your lifetime.

(Note for any die-hard LL Cool J fans still intent on seeing this film: he doesn't sing once in this movie, and none of the songs on the soundtrack are by him.)

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See also: Hot Boyz, Crack House, The Black Godfather