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Vivica A. Fox, Morris Chestnut, Anthony Anderson, Tamala Jones, Gabrielle Union

Directed by: Mark Brown
Written by: Mark Brown
Produced by: Doug McHenry, Paddy Cullen
Distributor: Screen Gems ,

US: 07/09/01 UK: 13/09/02

Shante (Vivica A. Fox) knows about men and relationships. She's the one her friends turn to for advice when they have "man trouble". But when Shante catches her own boyfriend Keith (Morris Chestnut) seeing another girl, she decides to implement a 10-day plan to keep her man in line and win him back for good. But Keith doesn't fall for Shante's games so easily, and decides to play a little game of his own. .

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Chicago Sun-Times/ Chicago Tribune
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USA Today / Village Voice

Morris Chestnut & Vivica Fox are both game for it

'Two Can Play That Game' is one of those movies where the lead character constantly looks straight into the camera and talks intimately to the audience. The best example of breaking the third wall being the 60s Mike Caine smash 'Alfie'. Unfortunately this ain't no Alfie, dog! Though it is a bit of a dog.

Maybe that's because the word 'dog' appears a lot in 'Two': as in 'Wassup dog?' or 'Where you at, dog? As does: 'you go girl', 'Ho', 'yo skinny white ass', and other racially tinged clichés.

You see, this is a movie that pretends to be one thing - but is actually the total opposite. Which is a shame, because its talented, mainly black cast is wasted on this mainly laugh free material.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the lie is that it's a light-hearted flick about beautiful middle-class African-Americans who maintain their Compton (i.e. L.A. ghetto) street roots whilst leading stunningly successful lives. Now't wrong with that, by the way.

Except that it's really a shallow, relentless ball-breaking relationschtick, without an ounce of real emotion, character growth or, dare one say the word: love? Well yeah I do dare, actually, as it is meant to be a romantic comedy. Did I already mention that it's also misogynistic, mean-spirited and totally irony-free?

The plot is as follows. Shanté Smith (played by ace babe Vivica A. Fox) is a hypersuccessful L.A. ad honcho and control freak who leads her gaggle of less assured yo-yo girls through the pitfalls of bagging and trapping 'men' - into a steady relationship. She's the world champ at this type of advice that comprises a ten day program to whip (and yes, pussy whip is actually used) your straying man back into shape and ensure their fidelity.

But doncha know, she catches her very own man (Keith played by the highly chisled Morris Chesnut) out on a date with a business rival - so, what's a girl to do but go apply her own 10 Day offensive?

Offensive? Yep! This consists of a punishment/torture regime that could teach the Taliban a thing or two. I assume this is supposed to be funny and charming, but honest, it's just pulling finger nails. Most of the laughs are provided by the ghetto fab talking Anthony Anderson who plays Keith's rotund, crotch scratching office mate, always cracking with the wise.

And yes, there are a few amusing set-pieces, but they seem to have been borrowed from another slap-slip flick being shot on the next stage. In particular, I have to admit to laughing out loud at the freak show of loser men, with whom Shanté flirts to make Keith mad.

So what's the lie - and why am I sounding so ticked about what would only be a bit of boy meets, loses and regains girl fluff, even if it was done well like 'When Harry Met Sally'?

In an industry that routinely sublimates African-Americans and Afro-Carribeans into stereotypes, here we have an all black cast (great), some token white actors in service roles (great), and a film that pretends to be empowering, when all that's on screen are J.Crew/Innovations catalogues come to life. And that's as dead as it gets emotionally. Ah well, at least it shows that crappiness is an equal-opportunity employer, I suppose.


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