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Caught Up

Rated R, 99 min. Directed by Darin Scott. Starring Bokeem Woodbine, Cynda Williams, Clifton Powell, Tony Todd, Basil Wallace, Joseph Lindsey, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ll Cool J, Jeffrey Combs.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., March 6, 1998

This boy 'n' the hood drama about an ex-con caught up in a maelstrom of deceit, double-crosses, and murder as he attempts to go straight can't negotiate the many twists and turns in its near-byzantine plot: It ends up crashing, a rumpled mess that can't be identified. The protagonist narrator of Caught Up promises a wild, funny story that's nevertheless the truth, but what you ultimately get is a tale that is simply half-baked, to be polite. After serving most of his adult life behind bars for dealing crack and being the unwitting accomplice in a bank robbery, Daryl Allen (Woodbine) is determined not to become a repeat offender. But, as his penchant for bad luck would have it, he keeps running into people working overtime to lead him astray. This is particularly true when it comes to his Tarot-reading girlfriend (Williams), whose psychic ability no doubt led her to find her a patsy when she needed one. Of course, their chance meeting in a diner smells like a set-up (although it's never really made clear if it is or not) and before you know it, there's stuff about stolen diamonds, unlawful activities in rented limousines, a lisping L.A. freak, Uzi-toting Rastafarian avengers, and -- in what has got to be the most bizarre cameo turn in recent movie memory -- a psychotic masked man spouting Shakespeare (or is it the Bible?) who drops his pants to reveal a missing manhood. (It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the Re-Animator series or The Frighteners that the certainly certifiable Jeffrey Combs plays this latter role.) None of these seemingly random events gels at all; it's as if director-screenwriter Scott has Scotch-taped the whole thing together. The film is stilted in the way many of the scenes are staged, and the acting is for the most part awful, especially Williams -- so very promising in One False Move -- who is very, very awful as the movie's poor excuse for a femme fatale. Only Woodbine comes close to portraying a flesh-and-blood character; at least you feel a little sympathy for his down-on-his-luck parolee. He's about the only thing in which to get caught up in Caught Up, and that's saying very little.
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