Set It Off

Queen Latifah comes out blasting in this Sisters n the Hood saga as one of four besieged black women in the Los Angeles projects who decide to stop taking racist shit and start robbing banks. Latifah's Cleo has seen her friends suffer. Being black has cost good-girl Frankie (Vivica Fox) a teller's job. Shy Tisean (Kimberly Elise) may lose her son. Stoic Stony (Jada Pinkett) has watched her innocent kid brother get shot and killed by a white cop (John C. McGinley).

Does this litany of troubles sound awkwardly contrived? Just wait. The script by Kate Lanier and Takashi Bufford has more holes than the fish-net stockings worn by Cleo's lesbian lover. A subplot that involves Stony's romance with a Buppie banker (Blair Underwood) is pure filler. And the direction by music-video wiz F. Gary Gray (Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day") is slick without being surprising.

Set It Off is best when the flick just kicks back; turns on the soundtrack, which features the likes of Seal, En Vogue and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony; and checks out the ladies in action. The four actresses supply enough humor and heart to light any movie's fuse, even this clichTd retread of Thelma and Louise. Like the characters they play, the sisters deserve better.

From The Archives Issue 378: September 16, 1982