Set It Off

Year: 1996
Director: F Gary Gray
Cast: Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox, John McGinley
Ostensibly an action movie, but so much more in tone, content and style.

Long before they were Hollywood heavyweights, Jada Pinkett and Queen Latifah starred with Vivica Fox as three of four friends from the LA hoods who find themselves down on their luck for all sorts of reasons and desperate for money.

When it occurs to the girls to rob a bank, they immediately brush it off as ridiculous, but the more desperate they become, the more the idea grows, and when they finally pull off their first hit, they make more of a success of it than they anticipated - and are left wanting more.

Quickly becoming an institution, feared and held in awe by the whole city, they're also being tracked the whole time by cop McGinley, who's convinced one of them is involved in the robbery we see in the opening scenes.

Things go from fun to out of hand, particularly for the brutal Cleo (Latifah) who drives the group to ever higher peaks of performance following her imaginary gangbanger credo.

And Stonie (Pinkett) has to deal with the whole thing and keep her friends together while her relationship with a preppie but smart bank manager (Underwood) blosoms.

The whole thing is held together brilliantly by very human characters played by accomplished actors, and between them and the script, Set it off manages to fit in a bit of everything; hip hop music, snappy gangster dialogue, crackling action, laughs and high drama.

A brilliant early turn by Gray, who's compiled a studio-slick movie with the cool edges we desperately need in them.

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