Movie Review – Barbershop: The Next Cut
On February 12, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed in Stanford, Florida. The circumstances of the shooting made it a cause célèbre, which raised awareness about the deaths of young, African-American men. That awareness was exacerbated on August 9, 2014, when Michael Brown, another unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. That shooting led to the Black Lives Matter movement, an organization that seeks to change how police engage African-Americans, given Michael Brown as well as numerous others like him were killed by police officers. However, those who disapprove of Black Lives Matter or BLM argue that its focus shouldn’t be police or law enforcement shootings of unarmed blacks but instead the focus should be on gang violence in cities like Chicago.
Last year, Spike Lee released Chi-Raq, a film that addressed this very issue. It rendered a fantasy of what could be done to tackle the problem of gang violence in Chicago, head-on. This movie essentially does the same, which makes sense because Malcolm D. Lee is the director here, and Malcolm D. Lee is the cousin of Spike Lee. Both films by both men are love letters to the city of Chicago, but Spike Lee’s film is meant to rile you up, whereas Malcolm D. Lee’s film is meant to settle you down and leave you wanting to live in Chi-Town.
What this movie is also about that perhaps supersedes or if nothing else complements the Chicago-gang-violence riposte is the idea of fatherhood. Ice Cube (Boyz N the Hood and Three Kings) stars as Calvin Palmer, the co-owner of a barbershop and beauty salon on the south-side of Chicago. He’s also the lead barber. Michael Rainey, Jr. (Power and Orange is the New Black) co-stars as Jalen, the teenage son of Calvin who loves basketball more than school, wears long dreadlocks and is tempted to join one of the street gangs. Calvin sees this and his priority is to keep his child from succumbing to that.
Ice Cube’s debut was in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood (1991), a film that also dealt with fatherhood in the inner city but in south-central Los Angeles. Singleton had Laurence Fishburne as the father trying to keep his child from succumbing or participating in gang violence. Now, 25 years later, Ice Cube is doing the Fishburne role. This fact is perhaps not lost on this movie’s screenwriter, Kenya Barris. Barris is the creator of the ABC series Black-ish, which co-stars Fishburne as the curmudgeonly grandfather.
This film is the third in a series that started with Barbershop (2002), but I never watched the two previous films, so I can argue that one can jump into this film without having the other two under one’s belt. The film stands alone. Whatever continuity doesn’t matter because the movie references Poetic Justice (1993), another film about people in a beauty salon, and like that film, this one does a good job of letting each person express where they’re coming from and who they are.
The movie for the most part stays inside the barbershop and beauty salon. It ventures out for one of two reasons. The first is to follow Jalen as he becomes more and more tempted and pulled into the gang life. The other reason is to follow the movie’s new character, as we see how his life contrasts to Calvin’s.
Lonnie Lynn, Jr., aka Common (pictured above), the rapper-turned-actor who in real-life is from Chicago and has a Grammy Award and an Oscar, co-stars as Rashad, a fellow barber and new love interest for Terri, played by Philadelphia-rapper Eve who was in both previous Barbershop films. Rashad is a former gang member trying to turn his life around who in fact has turned his life around. He has a good job and a good woman. He’s also raising a teenager of his own, Kenny, played by Diallo Thompson, in his film debut. Unfortunately, Rashad has to deal with trust issues both at work and at home, as his integrity is questioned by Calvin and Terri.
Along the way, the movie is buttressed by jokes and one-liners as the cast sits in the barbershop and banter about various issues and topics that range from crime in Chicago, sexism, monogamy, racism and even veers into criticism of President Barack Obama. It allows the cast, which includes a lot of comedic actors to riff and to shine.
Cedric the Entertainer (The Steve Harvey Show) as Eddie plays the elderly barber with conservative views much like Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks. Regina Hall (The Best Man and Think Like a Man) plays Angie, the co-owner running the beauty salon. J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) plays One-Stop who has a makeshift clinic. Lamorne Morris (New Girl) plays Jerrod, a quirky barber, and Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project) as Raja is the young barber of Indian descent. All shine.
Common, however, gets the two best moments in this movie. The moments were so great that it made me fall in love with him instantly. One moment involves a break-dance that just represents his amazing physicality, which he displayed in his action films, but the other moment is just him proving his comedic chops. Rashad is alone in his car after giving his co-worker Drea, played by Nicki Minaj, a ride home. The bit he does alone in that car is probably the most laugh-out-loud thing I’ve seen in a movie theater since The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.