It starts in New York’s central Park. Drug lord turned hip-hop empire builder Rich Bower, played by Power of Wu-Tang Clan, leans against a tree while two rich white teens (Bijou Phillips and Kim Matulova) use him as a sex sandwich.
Connoisseurs will recognize this grab-ass moment as the work of James Toback, a writer and director (Fingers, Two Girls and a Guy) who doesn’t observe the niceties of Merchant-Ivory cinema. Still, this largely improvised flick about white obsession with black culture is whacked, even for Toback.
Brooke Shields shows up in dreadlocks as Sam Donager, a documentary filmmaker eager to record this obsession for posterity. At Rich’s crib, Sam brings along her gay husband, Terry (a subtly explosive Robert Downey Jr.), who makes a play for Mike Tyson, who portrays himself with frightening verisimilitude. That’s when the lisping champ calls Terry a “come guzzler” and starts choking him while Sam keeps filming.
Audiences will call “Black and White” many things, most of them unflattering. The blend of actors and non-actors can throw you. Model Claudia Schiffer struggles futilely with the role of Greta, the manipulative graduate student who lives with Dean (Allan Houston of the New York Knicks), a basketball star who takes a bribe from the cop (Ben Stiller) who used to live with Greta. And, look: It’s Marla Maples as a trophy wife, and there’s Raekwon and Method Man.
What’s a fifty-ish white guy like Toback doing with this crowd? Fucking with us, as usual. But this lively mess proves that when Toback loses his head, he does it with style.