interesting that the film industry has just recently come around to the idea of
treating the direct-to-DVD market as a viable entity for (low-rent) original
content because black filmmakers have been running in this lane for sometime,
but moreso out of necessity. After all, since the gatekeepers of the major
movie studios have a precious few slots for “urban” films each year – still
unconvinced that these movies will play in foreign markets and be significant
earners in the ancillary markets – the cheap direct-to-DVD market has been a
godsend to many an independent black filmmaker, who unfortunately have mostly
wasted the opportunity with absolutely atrocious comedies and chitlin’ play
adaptations starring rappers and washed up TV stars and R&B singers. But
hey…this shit makes money, and that’s what matters most, right?
the urban operators in this market I had a good bit of hope for was Rainforest
Films. I met their head, producer/director Rob Hardy, several years ago when I
interviewed him for his “erotic thriller” Pandora’s Box, which was an
unofficial sequel to his Atlanta-set home video hit Trois.
lucre for their home video division, and gave Rob slightly more money and a
limited theatrical release for part deux. The film was okay, but it didn’t make
any sort of money or buzz that indicated this being anything other the usual
direct-to-DVD claptrap you could easily find on a Blockbuster shelf or Cinemax
program shelf around 2AM. When I talked to Hardy, though, it was obvious that
he seemed to care about more than profitability, and had genuine designs on
breaking through to make more respectable and just flat out better films, which
was encouraging. He scored, at least in the respectability department, a few
years later with The Gospel, another Atlanta-set Prodigal Son story that tripled
its budget theatrically and did good video business, too. While that sort of
obvious morality tale will never be my cup of tea, it was noticeably less
grating than the Tyler Perry films in the genre, and it marked Hardy’s – and
Rainforest’s – first genuine hit.
then, however, Hardy has been moving in reverse. He produced another Trois
which furthered the career of new It director Sylvain White. He’s produced a
direct-to-DVD sequel to the soapy Motives (a guilty pleasure if you
happen to catch it on BET while channel-flipping on a Friday night. Not so much
otherwise) and he’s now tapping that home video ass again with Three
Can Play That Game, a sequel to the 2001 Vivica A. Fox-starrer Two
Can Play That Game. Since Vivica’s always been a Z-lister, she’ll be
returning for this go-round, and even co-producing with Hardy and director Mody
Mod (don’t ask). If you haven’t seen the original, it’s essentially 90 minutes
of Fox talking directly to the camera about how to tame men of their “dogness”
while coping with a would-be player (Morris Chestnut) trying to get at her and
a hoochie rival (a miscast, but still hot Gabrielle Union) at the same time.
Oh, and Bobby Brown is cast as a serious romantic lead. Yes, that Bobby Brown. Compelling stuff.
kind of bewildering is that Sony intends to make this direct-to-DVD despite the
original almost quadrupling its budget theatrically. Granted, the belated
release date of the sequel doesn’t lend itself to capturing that momentum and
the title isn’t some universally marketable brand amongst black people, but
these films are so unworldly cheap to make – especially since they’ll be
shooting this one in Atlanta instead of the LA-set original – what’s the
downside in Sony giving this 500-1,000 screens in urban-centric areas along
with a narrowcast marketing campaign just for BET and black radio stations?
It’s not like we have anything else to look at in theaters, so we’ll likely
blindly support it as we did the rather average original.
depressing to write that, but it’s true. A starving man doesn’t consult his
taste buds when food is presented to him, and black people usually don’t have
the luxury of being but so picky when it comes to seeing black casts in
theaters. So, Sony, you got us where you want us. Do you really want to just
blow this off for video store shelves and rampant bootlegging in black
barbershops? Give Hardy a chance to make you some dough in theaters and maybe
after this likely dull film hits and brings the bacon, give him a wee bit more
money to do something more interesting. I know he wants to. I know plenty of
black people, myself included, are fucking
starving for that. What’s stopping you? No man
should be doomed to a life of keeping Shemar Moore employed, damnit.