Movie: Those of us who study popular culture will undoubtedly remember the whole wave of Hip Hop as promoted by MTV over a decade ago. The music was a synthesis of rap, dance, and a number of other styles that were common to the African American, but also mainstream, experience back then. Much of the current urban music scene was based on this genre and lots of exploitive low budget movies came out back then to take advantage of the trend. One movie that stands out as almost a documentary of hot musicians of the time, Who's The Man, also provided a stepping stone for a number of actors to bigger and better things.
The movie centered on a couple of really bad barbers played by Ed Lover and Doctor Dre who hit on hard times. Stuck in Harlem with few prospects, they are forced by their boss Nick (Jim Moody) to find a new career, as police officers. Nick calls in a few favors and the two pass the test, no matter how hard they try to fail. Bringing their own style to the police department, they bumble through and eventually hit the streets as full-fledged cops.
The minimal plot revolved around a greedy land baron trying to cheat the residents out of their land and murder as the duo strut their stuff in a hostile world. Okay, if you're looking for a highly structured plot and well developed characters, you're going to be disappointed but if you're in the market for a ballsy, funny comedy that pokes fun at police, street hoods, and the ghetto lifestyle, you'll be overjoyed with this one.
Further, from Ice T, Salt & Pepper, Run DMC, and just about every important musician on the scene at the time it was made, the movie provided a stage for all of them to get some exposure to a larger audience. It also had hilarious performances by Denis Leary (who stole the show in every scene he appeared in), Colin Quinn, and the leads, Dre and Ed. The director had worked with each of them while at MTV and was a life long friend of Leary before his untimely death a while back. The chemistry between these seemingly disparate performers was obvious from the first moments of the movie and even the weakest moments were better than most ethnic/cop movies ever made. Leary's roll call Sgt had me in stitches as did the duo's shooting exhibition in the police academy and those were but two of the many moments of joy here.
While the movie was structurally flawed, it was also hugely funny and I only wish it had better extras to correspond to the movie itself. I'm going to rate this as a guilty pleasure and give it a Recommended. It had great replay value and fans of the crew will fondly remember their many exploits on television.
Picture: The picture was presented with a choice of either a 1.85:1 ratio non-anamorphic widescreen or a 1.33:1 ratio full frame version, both in color. There was some pattern noise and grain but it looked pretty good for a low budget movie. The fleshtones were accurate and the detail good so I'd say the picture quality was as good as the content of the movie.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English track or a regular 2.0 stereo track, both with optional English subtitles. While neither choice was exactly stellar in terms of quality, there was some separation between the channels with the vocals and music fairly well defined.
Extras: Trailers and a weblink for DVD-Rom were all that came on the DVD.
Final Thoughts: There was a lot of biting social commentary as well as the usual silly humor you'd expect from Dre and Lover. The technical qualities were pretty solid for such an older movie and if you can overlook the plot loopholes, you'll have a lot of fun watching this comedy.