I Got the Hook-Up
1998, R, 93 min. Directed by Michael Martin. Starring Master P, A.J. Johnson, Gretchen Palmer, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Helen Martin, John Witherspoon.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 5, 1998
New Orleans' answer to Suge Knight -- minus the felony conviction, of course -- is rapper Master P, whose No Limits production company has entered the feature film arena via this occasionally engaging, frequently profane, always streetwise caper comedy that isn't nearly as bad as you might have thought. It's not all that good, either, but as a first strike, it serves P's stated purpose of cross-marketing his ghetto skills onto the silver screen. Clearly, the man is a shrewd businessman. As the film's writer, co-producer, and star, P may be getting ahead of himself a bit, but I Got the Hook-Up is still more notable than other urban comedies of its ilk (the recent Woo comes to mind) due to its uncompromising street cred. It's a comedy for the homies, and if that means it won't play too well in Peoria, then so be it. P is Black, and Johnson is Blue, and together they're the Wal-Mart of South Central, fencing stolen TVs, stereos, clothes, and sundries out of the rear of their battered Ford Econoline that sits unmoving in a ravaged corner lot surrounded by hustlers, ho's, and hubris. When P “accidentally” signs for a shipment of misdirected Motorola cellular phones, he quickly dreams up a scheme to net him and his buddy Blue some fast cash, i.e. sell the phones to their friends and gangsta pals and set up their own little renegade Baby Bell. With some able assistance from a hacker cohort, they clone existing numbers onto the new merchandise and have a field day until their scam backfires when the overloaded frequency first begins double-dialing numbers and then draws the attention of the cell phone company's fraud department and the FBI. Apart from the original scam, it's a fairly run-of-the-mill caper comedy, but P gives a surprisingly nuanced turn as the wannabe player Black; his droll, sedate delivery sounds like De Niro on Thorazine and he has a genuinely real screen presence. As Blue, Johnson get the Lou Costello treatment, replete with befuddled glances and a turbo-charged libido. It's a one-note role, but the actor does what he can (which admittedly isn't much). What keeps the film from falling into the vanity project abyss is some snazzy cinematography from debuting director Martin. He manages to keep your attention focused on the screen with various swooping, jittering, odd-angle shots even when the dialogue and storyline begin to sink to the level of the UPN network. It's not exactly what I'd call brilliant filmmaking, but it is heads above anything any of the Wayans brood have done in a long time.