There is part of me that would like to think that if I had never seen Menace II Society, or Juice, or Boyz 'n the 'Hood, or any of the other urban dysfunctional dramas that have come out over the years, that I might think Dough Boys was a halfway decent film. But the truth is that even if I had never seen these other films--and I have, so pretending I haven't is pointless--it doesn't change the fact that Dough Boys isn't a very good movie. Now, I don't want to be overly negative, but at the same time, if I were to adhere to the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" school of film criticism, this review would end right here.
Arlen Escarpeta stars as Corey, one of a quartet of friends calling themselves the Dough Boys. Corey's crew includes Smooth (Cory Hardrict), Black (Mo), and Long Cuz (Lorenzo Eduardo), and between the four of them, their small time hustles don't amount to much. Compared to his friends, who range between stupid and dumb-as-a-bag-shit, Corey is moderately intelligent with some semblance of ambition. His girlfriend wants him to leave Los Angeles and join her at college in San Francisco. But instead of doing the right thing, Corey and his crew steal some counterfeit casino chips, which they then try to unload. This brings them into the world of big time gangster Julian France (Wood Harris), who lives a life of luxury up in the hills, where hot broads do his bidding and every vice you could hope to become addicted to is readily available. Of course, given that this film is rife with clichés and utterly predictable twists and turns, it comes as very little surprise when it turns out that Julian is the guy that the Dough Boys inadvertently ripped-off. And he wants compensation for the misdeeds perpetrated by the Dough Boys, or he will personally pop a cap in all their asses.
The problem with Dough Boys--and to be honest, narrowing it down to one is difficult, so this is really the most obvious--is that the script is just plain bad. This story would have played out like an endless parade of hackneyed clichés if the movie had come out in the early 1990s, like the films it so shamelessly mirrors (especially Juice). But coming nearly twenty years after the films that defined this particular genre, Dough Boys just seems way out of touch with the times, which characters of no depth or dimension (especially when compared to similar characters in the first, third and fourth season of The Wire). Written by Preston A. Whitmore II, whose 1995 debut film The Walking Dead was equally as unimpressive as this nonsense, Dough Boys is overwhelmed by a startling lack of originality. As the film enters its third act, it spirals into a ridiculous sets of circumstances that leave you mumbling, "Well of course they would do that, they've already done everything else by-the-numbers."
Compounding the sub par script for Dough Boys is the direction by Nicholas Harvell, which is perhaps slightly more inspired than the script (but quite possibly not). Among the many shortcomings of the direction is a total lack of tension and a complete inability to evoke any emotional resonance other than annoyance from the material. Harvell also has trouble getting consistent performances out of his cast. Even an actor like Wood Harris, who has proven himself to be more than competent, gives an uneven performance. During the movie's climax, Harris comes across like he's pissed off at Harvell, and has decided to intentionally give a laughable performance just to screw things up.
But the biggest problem with Dough Boys is that it is just plain bad, instead of monumentally bad. While it is a sad amalgam of already-told tales, directed with little if any style, and acted with inconsistency, it doesn't suck nearly as much as other 'hood crime dramas. In other words, it never quite crosses that line of bad filmmaking where it is so bad it becomes a work of trashy art. But while that may be something of a compliment, it is a backhanded one, because without hitting the true depths of bad filmmaking, Dough Boys just languishes in a limbo just below mediocrity, but slightly above total trash that's good for a laugh or two. The end result is a movie with no real reason to watch it, other than if you're looking to waste your time.