After seeing Steve McQueen’s recently released Widows, I have been thinking about some of my favorite films involving guns, sex and holdups. Although there are a ton of great heist films out there, the only ones that were coming to the forefront of my brain were the ones led by black acting legends. Today, I will be recommending a double feature that plunges you into a world of crime and plays on your emotions with the relationships of its carefully constructed characters.
Set It Off (1996) and Dead Presidents (1995) have come to be known as “hood classics,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Practically everyone who grew up in the hood has seen these films. Since they run on BET constantly, I have been fortunate enough to see them dozens of times. These films make for a fine back-to-back viewing experience and no matter how many time you watch them, they never lose their poignancy.
Set It Off (1996)
4/5| Crime| Drama| Thriller| 2hr 4m
Director: F. Gary Gray
Screenplay: Takashi Bufford, Kate Lanier
Cinematography: Marc Reshovsky
“Bout to set it off, in this b*tch, Jada Pinkett” said Drake in his 2010 hit song, ‘Over,’ and fans of the film and artist filled with glee (by ‘fans’ I mean me). Set It Off stars Jada Pinkett-Smith, Vivica Fox, Kimberly Elise, and Queen Latifah as four best friends who plan and execute a series of bank robberies for the betterment of their lives. An engaging thriller set in the heated social climate of 1990’s Los Angeles, this film makes for an harrowing film about racism, sexism, violence, poverty and police brutality. It also makes for a thoroughly entertaining flick about female empowerment and feminine social hierarchy.
Dead Presidents (1995)
3/5| Crime| Drama| 1hr 59m
Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Screenplay: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes, Michael Henry Brown
Cinematography: Lisa Rinzler
Dead Presidents depicts the struggles of returning war veterans who their contributions to society are ignored by the United States government. Larenz Tate stars as Anthony Curtis, a solider who returns to his home in the Bronx after fighting in the Vietnam War. However, instead of being regarded as a hero, he is welcomed to a life full of misery and regret. Running out of options to make money, Anthony ultimately becomes involved in a plan to rob an armored truck. Featuring fine performances from an all star cast, Dead Presidents makes for an entertaining watch with a great message.