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Hot Boyz
(1999)
 

Director:Master P                           
Cast:
Gary Busey, Silkk The Shocker, Jeff Speakman


What Texas actor of B film lore,
Has a wild life, never is a bore?
He's a real badass to the core!
Smashed his skull and 'cycle when he was 44!
Ga-ry! Ga-ry Bu-sey! King of the B movie!
                                                             
                                                                  - To the tune of Davy Crockett

Recently, I decided it was time to review another movie with one of my favorite actors, Gary Busey. Though he's a fairly well know actor, he's done a number of unknown movies, so it's always great when I can combine my interest in unknown movies with seeing him again. This particular title had him top billed, so that was one promising sign. Another promising sign was that it was a PM Entertainment production, and long time readers will know that I've enjoyed a number of slick action flicks from PM producers Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin, like The Silencers and Executive Target.

Also promising was the presence of B movie martial arts star Jeff Speakman (Street Knight, The Expert, Deadly Outbreak - entertaining B movies, each of them), and the promise of camp value with a number of rappers in the cast, like Silkk The Shocker, Master P, and Snoop Dogg. I thought I knew what I was getting with this movie, though I was surprised by what I got instead. Hot Boyz is not a terrible movie - it's certainly better than recent PM disappointments like Road Ends and The Sender - but among the better moments are moments both weird, confusing and just plain bad. It's actually one of the few movies I've seen that land right in the middle of "recommended" and "not recommended".

The first odd thing to be noticed about that movie is that while Busey is top billed, he actually has a supporting role here. Still, this marketing decision shows that Busey is hotter among our youth than any rap star, including Silkk The Shocker, who actually has the leading role here. He plays Kool, an aspiring rapper in L.A. who is devoted to studying the martial art of Kenpo from his master (Speakman) and to his girlfriend Lashawna. Which brings up the second odd thing - despite bringing in Speakman, an actor with some name value, and giving him third billing, he's hardly in the movie at all. The closest he gets to martial arts is teaching a class at his dojo. In fact, his character and Silkk's martial arts skills could easily have been written out of the movie with absolutely no consequence to the story. The only thing that can be concluded is that Speakman (who looks like he's gone on the Steven Seagal diet, by the way) was cast here only to add another name on the front of the video box.

Back to the story: Life for Kool is okay overall, until one night Lashawna stumbles across a undercover cop dying from the stabbing his assailant gave him seconds before. Of course, that's the cue for some other cops to come into the scene, make the expected boneheaded decision, and arrest Lashawna for murder. Kool is determined to free his girl, and he eventually tracks down Tully (Busey), the cop in charge of the case. Tully actually suspects the killer was either local hoodlum Saint or one of his associates, but he sees an opportunity here. So he makes an offer to Kool: Work undercover for us to get the evidence we need to bust Saint and his operations, and we'll free your girl.

Even though Tully is soon shown to be a sneaky and despicable cop, I doubt that any cop could get away with getting a civilian to go undercover in a situation like this. But I don't really mind what the excuse is to start the plot if the plot does deliver the goods. Although Hot Boyz has less action than a lot of other PM movies, each action sequence is pleasing enough, though most are not quite up to the usual PM standard. The movie opens up with a breakneck car chase at the harbor, which is fairly well edited, using slow motion at appropriate moments, and manages to crack up a number of police cars. But we don't know who the driver is, and why he's trying to escape - two elements that can really help make a car chase work. It's a good chase, but it's pretty much mindless action.

Two other chase sequences - one a scramble to the rooftop to get away from the police, and a car chase involving a hearse (!) and a van - are pretty swift, and each ends with a spectacular stunt shot in slow motion. Each scene, though, is peppered by a number of shots where the camera wiggles side to side while zoomed close to the action. Perhaps director Master P was influenced too much by the directorial style of the music videos he's been in. Anyway, viewers will be momentarily confused whenever this technique happens, and they prevent these action scenes from reaching their full potential.

If I may return to the story once again, I may point out the bizarre change of pace it takes at approximately 3/4 of the way through. Up until then, it's been a variation of the "undercover cop" premise that we're all familiar with. This rendition has been better than some others, but not as good as some others. At this point, the movie runs out of story. Now, I am not saying that they drag out what little story is left until the very end - I'm saying that they completely, totally run out of story. Every conflict has been resolved one way or another. Then suddenly, one of the characters gets a completely different perspective in his mind, founding a gang and becoming another Scarface after a montage of he and his gang shooting different gangs in various nightclubs. Then the movie becomes a series of betrayals and double-deals, climaxing in a big shoot-out. Now, the shoot-out (where almost every character left in the movie gets killed) is pretty cool, with a ton of ammo getting shot off. But the 180 degree turn the movie had to do to get to this point is just so out of left field - and what happens between here and the shoot-out is lamely predictable - that it's hard to shake a feeling of contempt you feel.

The movie's change in its tune is also typical of the movie's attempt to cram much more stuff than it can properly handle. In the first part of the movie, there's a reoccurring theme that Kool has to try and stay true to himself while he's undercover and doing these criminal activities, but this is abandoned before the movie gets near the end. The aftermath of the hearse chase is completely dismissed by the main characters with just a couple of lines of dialogue, despite the fact that the aftermath would have had unavoidable consequences for them if this was happening in the real world. The movie is filled with other similarly half-baked ideas and events that by the end of the movie there are a whole mess of loose ends. That may explain why the ending itself looks suspiciously like it was hastily changed in post-production. Over some offscreen narration by one of the characters explaining what happened, we are shown footage that we've already seen plus what appears to be outtakes. It's just as cheesy at it sounds.

The actors generally manage to weather the material, even when it gets to its lowest points; however, it says a lot that Busey, though adequate, is clearly phoning in his performance. He's still fun to watch, but this isn't his finest moment. Sounding more growly than usual, as if he has a sore throat, he's clearly not that enthusiastic, and relies on his charisma instead. Speakman and C. Thomas Howell are on for such little time, I couldn't really judge their performances. Silkk is competent, no more, in the lead, and so are the other rap performers (like Snoop Dogg) in the supporting roles. As acceptable as they are in their roles, at times their performances almost get lost during the bad moments, and when the movie tries to do too much. A clue for the movie's troubles might be found in the fact that the credits reveal this movie was in fact a co-production between PM Entertainment and No Limit Films. With both production companies specializing in different kinds of action films, there was bound to be trouble when they made this partnership. This and the movie biting off more than it can handle just goes to show how apt the saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth can be sometimes.

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Check for Silkk The Shocker's music (CD)

See also: Didn't You Hear, Executive Target, Lethal Tender

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