2 G’s & a Key (2000)    2 Stars

“Some Gangstas Never Learn”

Director: Paul Wynne

Cast: Conroe Brooks, Alan Smithee, Kiki Watson

Synopsis: After doing three years in prison, an ex-con tries to settle an old debt with a drug dealer, but discovers the dealer wants him dead instead.




2 G’s and a Key takes the viewer into the now familiar ‘hood of the US ‘homey’, a world crammed with casual sex, casual violence, and casual drug-taking. It’s a sub-genre of the crime film that seems to have fascinated us since the blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s, and which shows no signs of losing popularity. It’s a portal into that violent world in which we love to abide — as long as we know none of the bullets can cause us harm, and none of the punches bruise us. Perhaps, second only to porn, this kind of flick is the most voyeuristic of movie genres — unlike sci-fi, it depicts a believable world, populated by mavericks who do the things many of us would like to do but from which we restrain due to the potential consequences.

Conroe Brooks plays Curtis, fresh out of prison after serving a three-year sentence, and keen to make some cash to pay off a drug dealer to whom he owes money. He’s met outside the prison gates by Warren (the pseudonymous Alan Smithee) who fixes him up with a job delivering drugs for Andre (Charles D. Allen). Three years in the pen is a long time for a homey to be without a woman though, and instead of delivering his first consignment, Curtis engages in a spot of rumpy with his ex-girlfriend, Letisha (Kiki Watson), and samples a little of the package he’s supposed to be delivering…

Director Paul Wynne clearly has talent, and it’s equally clear that his talent is hampered by a non-existent budget and a certain lack of constraint; he needs a guiding hand to tell him when he’s over-indulging in the use of unusual camera angles, and to perhaps sharpen his editing technique. Paradoxically, the low budget partly works in the movie’s favour in that it lends 2 G’s and a Key a rawness that suits the slum locations in which the story unfolds. To a large extent, these minor quibbles, while noticeable — and occasionally irritating — rarely fail to spoil the viewer’s enjoyment of the movie. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the quality of some of the acting (much of which seems to be improvised), and the distinctly amateurish feel of the action sequences — particularly the shootout at Andre’s place. Only former football star Aaron D. Spears stands out, as the vengeful dealer Sad Dogg.

Although the film itself is quite likable (and watchable) there are no likable characters (apart from Warren, a hapless foil whose function is obvious from the outset) — which is perhaps as it should be considering the story being told. The problem is, their low characters prevent us from getting involved in their tale. We don’t like them, so we don’t really care what happens to them. Curtis is marked out as a loser from the start, with no morals or loyalties (other than to himself) and, while he does undergo a transformation as the story unfolds, he doesn’t particularly redeem himself in the eyes of the audience: the Curtis at the end of this movie may have picked up a twisted (and inconsistent) kind of morality, but he’s still a low-life criminal unworthy of any admiration.

There’s no law that states there has to be any kind of moral message attached to a movie, but there are few movies that choose to ignore the inherent need of the viewer to receive such a message — however subliminal it might be. 2 G’s and a Key shuns any kind of message (unless, as the final scene in which a couple of Curtis and Warren clones are in a Jag on their way to Pomona echoes an earlier one, it’s the bleak message that while everything changes, the world remains the same) — and it leaves us feeling curiously dissatisfied because of it. Only by watching the film as mindless entertainment can you avoid this dissatisfaction, but by doing so you risk overlooking much of the good work that Wynne has put into this effort.

(Reviewed 24th September 2005)