Keenen Ivory Wayans's feeble attempt to put a comic spin on the action genre is nothing like his 1988 directing debut, I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, an affectionate, often witty parody of the "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s. LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME is Hollywood product of the most cynical kind: vapid, violent, and smug. After taking the rap for a botched...read more
Keenen Ivory Wayans's feeble attempt to put a comic spin on the action genre is nothing like his 1988 directing debut, I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, an affectionate, often witty parody of the "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s. LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME is Hollywood product of the most cynical
kind: vapid, violent, and smug.
After taking the rap for a botched sting operation, Officer Andre Shame (Wayans) turns in his badge to open the Low Down Dirty Shame detective agency. Deep in debt and reduced to risking his life doing insurance recovery jobs, Shame jumps when his old DEA buddy Sonny Rothmiller (Charles S.
Dutton) offers him a second chance at drug kingpin Ernesto Mendoza (Andrew Divoff). After pulling strings at the police station, Shame tracks down Mendoza's girlfriend, Angela (Salli Richardson), who happens to be Shame's ex-girlfriend as well. When he confronts her, he discovers that she's been
under DEA surveillance to protect her from Mendoza, from whom she stole $20 million before ratting him out to the police; she also reveals that Sonny has been working with Mendoza to track down the money. Realizing he's been set up, Shame leaves Angela with his partner, Peaches Jordan (Jada
Pinkett), and shakes down an old snitch for Mendoza's whereabouts. In the meantime, however, Peaches lets Angela get away; she's captured by Mendoza's men, who use her to bargain for Angela and the money. Shame agrees to meet Mendoza at a closed mall for the exchange and bests the villain in a
Writer-director Wayans stocks LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME with all the conventions of the genre: bullets, blood, and broken glass; unapologetically unlikely plotting; arch one-liners; slow-motion kung-fu and high-speed car chases; and plenty of racial and sexual stereotyping, including the requisite
unflattering depictions of blacks, whites, Hispanics, women, and gays. Although there's a greater emphasis on comedy here than in most contemporary action pics, the jokes are uniformly lowbrow and rarely funny; indeed, like much of Wayans's writing on TV's "In Living Color," the whole enterprise
suggests contempt for his presumptive audience, i.e., working- and middle-class blacks.
Wayans the screenwriter is largely to blame for the film's shortcomings, but Wayans the director does a solid job, creating tense scenes that explode into furious action (although, in the wake of such extravagantly produced action films as SPEED and TRUE LIES, even the liveliest scenes in SHAME
feel somewhat flat). Wayans the actor, however, is a real disappointment: he comes off as slightly goofy when he's trying to be serious, slightly stiff when he's playing for laughs. Turning in an uncharacteristically weak performance is Dutton, whose perpetual scowl doesn't impart much depth to
Sonny. Of the entire cast, only Pinkett, a relative newcomer, stands out as Shame's feisty partner. (Violence, sexual situations, profanity.)