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Deep Doo-doo

A modern-day Bonnie and Clyde are after your money again.

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About three-quarters of the way through Waist Deep, the hero — an indestructible ex-convict who calls himself O2 (2 Fast 2 Furious star Tyrese Gibson) — peers out through the swirling smoke and the bloody mayhem of an urban killing ground and experiences a revelation. "Somethin' ain't right," he observes. It's just about the truest moment we get in one of the sloppiest crime thrillers ever to reach the screen. It's as if co-writers Vondie Curtis Hall (who also directed) and Darin Scott knocked out their drafts on separate planets, then e-mailed them to a 9-year-old for rewriting.

Aside from its annoying array of extreme close-ups — full-frame shots of the characters' mouths, noses and eyes — Waist Deep's primary conceit is the claim that it's a contemporary Bonnie and Clyde, the kind of socially and sexually charged cops-and-robbers story in which the romantic fugitives win the hearts of the public and the enmity of the authorities before going out in a blaze of glory. The alleged stand-ins here are O2, whose son, Junior, has been kidnapped in a street-gang carjacking, and a sullen but sizzling Los Angeles streetwalker named Coco (Meagan Good), who's on the gangstas' payroll. Supposedly thrown together by mutual need, they go on a 24-hour crime spree to raise money for the boy's $100,000 ransom and Coco's emancipation while a series of hip-hop hits blast away on the soundtrack. Apparently, it occurs to neither of these inadvertent felons that shaking down the hideouts and robbing the safe-deposit boxes of two rival street gangs might get them into some serious trouble. They also don't seem to grasp that stealing a cache of jewels from one of the kingpins — a one-eyed villain called Big Meat (played by rapper the Game) — then trying to sell his own merch right back to him a few hours later, via an intermediary, may not be the wisest career choice.

Like dozens of action movies before it, Waist Deep makes a halfhearted pass at social responsibility with a couple of speeches about the curse of street drugs, the scourge of violent gangs and the failure of city authorities to look out for its citizens. In later scenes, however, it can't help fawning over the fruits of crime in the 'hood: huge black Hummers, flashy Rolexes, piles of cash, awesome heavy artillery. What we have here is a tacit endorsement of greedy gangsta life, vaguely disguised within a morality play.

Other contradictions run rampant. How do fugitives traveling in a stolen car manage to cross into Mexico? How does an ex-convict just a few weeks out of San Quentin land a job as a pistol-packing security guard? Who would figure that a lone fugitive surrounded by 20 police cars and two helicopters can simply hit the gas and drive, unimpeded, off the end of a dock? Are we really to believe that O2 and Coco can pull off three loud bank robberies in one afternoon, all in the same city, without seeing a cop or suffering a scratch? As Bonnie and Clyde could tell you, somethin' ain't right.

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