Set It Off

Set It Off

Even when it misses a dramatic opportunity in favor of generic action, Set It Off benefits from a sharp understanding of its well-drawn central characters. They're a quartet of young African American women in Los Angeles (Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise), all struggling against a system that seems designed to prevent them from realizing their dreams. The movie establishes their plight with credible attention to emotional detail, making their decision to rob banks believable enough to give the ensuing plot its inevitably tragic momentum. Cowritten by the screenwriter of What's Love Got to Do With It?, the film conveys genuine compassion for its characters, and the ensemble cast is uniformly strong--especially Queen Latifah as a brash lesbian whose fate is as certain as her forceful attitude. Set It Off expresses a real sense that these women have been close friends for years, and that gives the film additional impact, even when their transition to crime and violence feels somewhat forced and superficial. A romantic subplot involving Pinkett and a social-climbing banker (Blair Underwood) is too contrived to be convincing, and director F. Gary Gray (Friday) tries too hard to combine hard-hitting action with social relevance (a weakness shared by Gray's following film, The Negotiator). Still, Set It Off effectively avoids passing judgment; its emotional complexity transcends simple notions of right and wrong, injecting vitality--and a kind of renegade integrity--into the traditions of a familiar plot. --Jeff Shannon

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Production: New Line Home Entertainment
  5 wins & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:

Detective Strode:
[after Frankie is unexpectedly thrust into a bank robbery while working] Okay, okay. Let's take this from the top.

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
I thought we covered everything.

Detective Strode:
How well did you know the perpetrator?

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
I've just known Darnell from around the way, is all. We live in the same projects.

Detective Strode:
Frankie, will you do me a favor? Just tell me one thing, and we'll get out of here.

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:

Detective Strode:
What's the procedure when you're being robbed?

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
Look, sir, I kn...

Detective Strode:
Stop! Stop! Stop! Now... what's the procedure when you're being robbed?

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
You pull the money clip from your right-hand drawer. And then you signal with your left hand.

Detective Strode:
You signal with the left. So you know the procedure.

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
Yes, like I said, the procedure has been told to me over a million times.

Detective Strode:
So, why is it, if that procedure's been drummed into your head a million times... you got that procedure down... Why wouldn't you follow it? Huh?

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
Because he had a gun! And I went for my clip, but he shot her! He shot her right in front of me!

Mr. Zachery:
I'm afraid, Miss Sutton, that we're going to have to let you go. The fact that you knew the perpetrator doesn't sit well with us.

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
Wait, wait. But that's not right. I haven't done anything wrong! I can't help who I know! Mr. Zachary, just last week, you gave me a promotion. Now you're going to take my job away from me like this?

Mr. Zachery:
What happens the next time one of your friends robs the bank? How do we know you're not in collusion?

Francesca 'Frankie' Sutton:
[angrily] In COLLUSION? Let me tell you something! I am here at 8:20 sharp every morning and I work my ass off until quitting time. Yesterday, I counted $240,000 by hand for you! That's how you should KNOW! I mean, COME ON! This is just NOT RIGHT! I nearly got blown away in your tight-ass f***ing bank, and you're going to FIRE me? You couldn't even WAIT!

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