Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So I’m at the video store looking for a movie because I have to pay for these movies just like you do, at least those of you out there who don’t steal movies. I gets no special treatment. I want special treatment but I gets no special treatment. Then I see the cover of this movie ‘A Day in the Life’ with Mekhi Phifer, Omar Epps and Kirk ‘Sticky Fingaz’ Jones on the cover so based on that alone I grab it and take it on home. What I didn’t know was that ‘A Day in the Life’ was a Hip Hopera, but when the characters in the opening scene started rapping and they wouldn’t stop rapping until the final gunshot, sure enough we have a hip-hop rapping musical on our hands. Is this a good thing? Well ‘A Day in the Life’ does have its moments.

Jones is the character of Stick, a young man deep into the game but finding the game has just gotten way more complicated. For starters a rival family run by a character named Black (Faizon Love) is encroaching on his territory, icing his crew and stealing his product. Not very honorable. This unfortunate situation has led to Stick’s hot headed, Sonny Corleone style cousin Phya (Fredro Starr) ignoring Stick’s sage advice and taking matters into his own hands which leads to Phya suffering a fate similar to Sonny which makes Stick mad and sad. Stick’s life is further complicated by his gloriously over-developed girlfriend Heaven (Melinda Santiago) announcing that she is carrying his child, or carrying his ‘seed’ as Stick would say, an event which hastens Stick’s desire to exit the game.

But we all know leaving the game just isn’t that easy. First Stick needs to avenge the affront to his crew and the attempted murder of his cousin which leads to all kinds of death and destruction. Then there’s Stick main supplier P (Drena De Niro) who is none too happy to hear that her number one distributor is trying to leave her high and dry. There’s also the tightening web of the law, particularly a couple of detectives in good cop Grant (Michael Rappaport) and bad cop Lou (Tryin Tuner) who are closing in by simply following the trail of dead bodies. The worst of Stick’s problems, one he’s not even aware of yet, is that his arch enemy Black has gone and hired a hit man with a 100% success rate in King Khi (Phifer) to solve his problems for him.

Working in Stick’s favor is that his homeboy O (Epps), an entrepreneur who has successfully transitioned himself out of the game, has made a way for Stick and his seed carrying girlfriend to escape, and Stick’s brother BamBam (Bokeem Woodbine) is back in town to cover his baby brother’s back. But will it be enough to keep the boy alive so that he can get on that plane? Probably not.

The first thing you’ll notice about ‘A Day in the Life’ is the laundry list of talent that Kirk Jones has assembled for his little Hip Hopera. Jones must be a really, really solid dude to convince all these people to show up in his movie for what I’m sure was little or no money. In addition to the folks we’ve already mentioned there are carefully placed cameos by Clarence Williams III, Nadine Velazquez, Eric Palladino, Treach, Ray and more as this movie is filled with all kinds of recognizable actors with every one of them having to rap their lines. For the most part this technique worked pretty well, especially considering how intricately some of the rhymes were constructed with characters having to talk to each other through the rhymes, sometimes three or four characters at a time.

Of course not everybody can rap because it is a skill no matter how simple it may seem. As such we do have to suffer through the occasional character who tries to rap and can’t rap and then there were those in the cast who knew they couldn’t rap and thus thankfully merely spoke their rhymes somewhat in tune with the beat. Somewhat. Sometimes it’s just hard to find that beat. I gotta say the best scene in the movie was the one with Fazion Love and Mekhi Phifer, actors not rappers, discussing the terms of the deal. There was something about the setup and flow of that particular scene which set it apart.

Where ‘A Day in the Life’ suffers is in its cinematic presentation. The budgetary restraints that director Jones was obviously working with betrayed the overall look of the film as it had a flat and washed out look as opposed to a harsh and gritty look that I’m sure the director was shooting for. The film was plenty energetic but there wasn’t enough energy to change the feeling that one was looking at a ‘video’ as opposed to a ‘film’. Also, while not exactly a criticism, but do recognize that ‘A Day in the Life’ is in the vein of a lot of modern hip-hop in that it is violent, profane and misogynistic. And if hearing numerous variations of the word ‘nigga’ offends you then keep it moving.

But when it all shakes out I did enjoy watching ‘A Day in the Life’ which is the second Hip Hopera I’ve seen with the first being ‘Confessions of a Thug’. ‘Thug’ was probably an overall better movie than ‘Life’ even though it had a quarter of a percent of the star power of ‘Life’, but it was also less risky in that it did deliver a good bit of its dialog using traditional means, where ‘A Day in the Life’ was 100% pure hip-hop.

Real Time Web