True to the Game 2
2020, R, 93 min. Directed by Jamal Hill. Starring Erica Peeples, Andra Fuller, Jeremy Meeks, Iyana Halley, Vivica A. Fox, Niatia Kirkland, Michael King, Bre-Z, Rotimi, Tamar Braxton, Starletta DuPois.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 6, 2020
True to the Game 2 begins with a Philadelphia bang as four women in bejeweled and studded masks brazenly hijack a bread truck stocked with loaves of cocaine in broad daylight. Their motive? To settle a score with middle-tier drug distributor Jarrell Jackson (Fuller), the ruthless lowlife transporting the $1 million powdery shipment who murdered coke kingpin Quadir Richards a year earlier in 2017’s True to the Game. But this get-even storyline — not to mention its intriguing gender angle — in the script by part one director Preston A. Whitmore II quickly evaporates as the crime-story narrative shifts to Jarrell hunting down the bitches (his words) who wiped out his inventory.
Believing well-off Manhattan journalist and the late Quadir’s fiancée Gena Hollins (Peeples) may be one of the perpetrators of the heist (or at least, a cash-cow substitute), he follows her to L.A. where she has driven cross-country, duffel bags of Benjamins in tow, on a freelance interview assignment. (The source of Gena’s wealth is a mystery. Shitloads of money just arrive at her doorstep without explanation.) There, Jarrell poses as a sincere brother romantically interested in her, and she inexplicably falls for it. Payback themes aside, this sequel is ostensibly about Gena getting back into game of life, one that you’re constantly reminded is a Sheila E. glamour fantasy of white Range Rovers, Bulgari luxury sunglasses, chauffeured transportation, and horseback rides on the beach. The movie dangles this ostentatious display of affluence like a diamond-encrusted carrot, hoping the audience is hungry for a bite.
Apart from the nowhere storyline devoid of any interesting character development or conflict, the movie feels vaguely exploitative, with most of the obligatory skin bared by females playing sex workers (the exception: King’s tattooed boy toy) and the n-word bandied about for what supposedly passes as street cred. The actors are limited, given the material (leads Fuller and Peeples stumble more than once, particularly in their early scenes), though both Fox as Quadir’s firebrand sister and Meeks as Jarrell’s cold-blooded right-hand man make the proverbial silk purse. The extensive use of flashbacks revives some of the relevant scenes from the original movie, but at some point, you’ll probably not care whether you either know about or can recall those details.
Like its predecessor, the movie is based on a novel by Teri Woods, who initially self-published her urban fiction thrillers in the late Nineties to impressive sales before a major publishing house re-released them. The ending of this sophomore adaptation is open-ended, no doubt in anticipation of a possible film version of the third book in Woods’s trilogy. Another stab at the TTTG series could only yield more satisfying results. Directionally speaking, the only way is up.