[Screen It]

(2005) (Beanie Sigel, Victor Santiago) (R)

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Drama: A thug tries to fend off rivals and keep control of his criminal empire while in prison.
Given a 15 to 30 year prison sentence for his criminal ways, Philly kingpin Beans (BEANIE SIGEL) hopes to keep his ABM Crime Syndicate in business, particularly since his minions -- including Baby Boy (OMILLIO SPARKS) and D-Nice (OSCHINO) -- are still on the streets. Yet, Beans -- who rooms with cellmate Freeway (FREEWAY) -- must contend with the actions of other crime bosses who are looking to move in on his territory.

There's El Loco (VICTOR N.O.R.E. SANTIAGO), who's currently imprisoned with Beans -- and still associates with his mentor, pseudo father and former boxer Biggis (MICHAEL BENTT) -- but is about to be paroled. On the outside, there's Dame (DAMON DASH) whose Umbrella Network has deep pockets and plenty of manpower, and his addiction to money gives him plenty of motivation to take Beans' business.

As the other players make their moves, Beans tries to keep control of his territory and business, all leading to an inevitable, violent showdown between the various crime bosses and their men.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends had just seen some exciting or entertaining movie? Rather than act like mini-me Eberts and critique the film, all of you probably ran out and imitated the characters and action you had seen on the screen. And you didn't care a lick about your acting or storytelling abilities or what others might think about them.

You sometimes get that feeling when people from another industry decide to get together and make a movie, populating the effort with their friends and/or family members. Such was the case with "State Property" from 2002 where a bunch of rappers tried to make a gangster flick. Not surprisingly, it was drubbed by the few critics who actually saw it and was mostly ignored by the moviegoing masses.

Undeterred by the critical and box office failures, some from that original gang are back for another try at the genre with "State Property 2." Not screened for critics and released with little to no fanfare or advertising, the film takes up where the first left off (with the narrator even telling us that).

While watching this muddled mess, several things become all too apparent: 1) Just because you're a rapper and have appeared in music videos doesn't mean you can or should act; 2) You need at least one sympathetic or at least entertaining character to engage viewers; and 3) Those responsible for this film have obviously watched the likes of "Scarface" and "Goodfellas" too many times, but nevertheless missed or just ignored what made those films work or, in the case of the latter film, be so good.

The result isn't the absolute worst thing you'll see all year, but it's likely secured its placed among the bottom ten. Working from a script by Adam Moreno, director Damon Dash (who also appears in the film) at least tries to keep things interesting visually, and there's enough attempted humor to offset some of the otherwise raw and gritty material.

Yet, unlike the brilliant and thematically similar "City of God," the visuals don't amount to much in the end other than just to draw attention to themselves. And the humor -- including goofy, tacked-on sound effects -- isn't funny unless, perhaps, you're a big rap fan and love the thought of recently deceased Ol' Dirty Bastard playing a short order cook with his finger always up his nose. That leads to an uneven feel as the film wavers between the "real" thing - a gritty urban drama -- and an unsuccessful spoof of the same.

It doesn't help matters that Dash utilizes nearly nonstop voice over narration -- which is a lazy way to tell a story unless it's done pitch-perfectly -- and does so with multiple speaking characters. As the protagonist -- played by Beanie Sigel (reprising his role from the first film) -- tells his tale, we're introduced to various characters who then tell their stories in flashback.

Beyond the fact that we end up with far too many characters and their back stories -- resulting in an overly and unnecessarily cluttered affair -- the narration repeatedly shifts from one character to another and then back again. That only adds to the convoluted feel.

It's not that the main story is terribly complicated -- in fact, it's fairly simple -- but the filmmakers insist on making it seem that way. Unfortunately, they're not successful, which can also be said about the acting from most of the cast.

If you can imagine adults who never grew out of that "run out onto the street to imitate what they saw in a movie" mentality, you'll get a picture of the thespian efforts here. Most notable for non-rap fans is a brief cameo by Mariah Carey who only reminds us why "Glitter" was so bad.

Certain to bomb at the box office before making a hasty retreat to home video where it may fare better, this is a dud of a flick that simply doesn't work on any level. It's too bad it's not just a little worse to make it fun to watch -- in a laugh at it fashion. Let's just hope part III remains incarcerated somewhere, safely out of the public eye. "State Property 2" rates as just a 1 out of 10.

Reviewed April 13, 2005 / Posted April 15, 2005

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