The success of the soundtrack album weeks before the film has been released
makes clear that this movie knows how to please its audience. On the surface
it's "Waiting to Exhale" meets "Do the Right Thing."
But underneath, it's more interesting, because these chicks want more than
action. They want justice, and the action sorta gets in the way.
They rob a bank. And they've got a better reason to do it than Billy the
Kid, who explained his own robberies in terms of "That's where the
money is." Here, one of our four heroines worked at a bank that got
robbed - by a guy she knew. And the bank fired her for knowing that certain
someone. This guilt by association rap turns her into a revolutionary -
a revolutionary who has to take a job with her girlfriends cleaning offices
An action pic for gals intent on getting back what society has taken from
them, the movie treads a very thin line in endorsing crime as an alternative
to the screw-job that society delivers on all of us. To be sure, African-Americans
are victimized by the system more than their fair share, but as a counterweight
to that, "Set It Off" offers the portrait of a young buppie banker
who sees a gal and falls in love-at-first-sight with her. This is the romantic
weight of the movie; she pretends she doesn't come from South Central L.A.
She cooks collards, he cooks cuisine. She dresses in colorful celebration;
he decks her out in black with jewelry. And she's seduced.
But she's not seduced enough to pull out of the crime. By the time the
long action sequence - complete with helicopters and enough police cars
to patrol all of South Central - is over, our heroines are all martyrs.
Except one. Her getaway is the key to this movie; the man doesn't finger
her. And she gets away - but not without making a phone call to her buppy
buddy - and thereby delivering on his head "guilt by association."
When his bank finds out he knew one of the thieves, do we think he'll have
his job much longer?
The vicious circle may deliver a sequel. Stay tuned.