The title is something of a misnomer. Sure there’s a mess of crisp greenbacks flaunted (even production-wise—the asphalt sparkles) throughout Ice Cube’s latest, but All About the Benjamins is really all about brand recognition. Or, as cash-strapped Miami bounty hunter Bucum Jackson (producer-cowriter-star Ice Cube) asserts early on, “There’s a whole lotta money out there—all I gotta do is put my name on it.”
Not that the tale of Jackson’s diamond-filching partnership with con man Reggie Wright (Mike Epps) comes on with the insistence of, say, a Coke plug (though doesn’t Cube swig a . . . ?). Instead, director Kevin Bray lets the multimillionaire boyz be boys, allowing motormouth Epps to piss in any flower bed while preventing Cube, who often resembles a disconcerted but undeterred rottweiler, from seeming a dumb bunny. Glitz and speed help alleviate cavernous plot holes and rote gangsta misogyny, while the gleeful violence, pointlessly sappy lulls, and racial sparring are leavened a bit by capricious auto-critique. (Epps takes particular delight in working himself into—and then cutting through—fits of faux minstrelsy.) Indeed, if Bucum and Reggie (and, sometimes, their bitches) are all about scrambling after $20 million in hot ice and a winning $60 mil lotto ticket, they’re even more preoccupied with loitering in the spotlight. Mugging, not robbery, is the name of the game.
In short, Bucum and Reggie are who they are—Cube and Epps, unmistakably, hauling in real Franklins while playing with fakes. But you probably already knew what you were buying. As one elderly gentleman at the screening explained to his befuddled guest, “Ice Cube’s not Reggie. Ice Cube is Ice Cube.”