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In the Mix

Hot hip-hop yields to lukewarm melodrama when a Brooklyn gangsta tries to make it as a rapper.


Diamond (Haitian-American rapper Pras) hopes to launch a recording career with a self-financed CD, but loyalty to his loose-cannon homie Gage (hip-hop star Ja Rule) and a lack of cash keep him uncomfortably linked to Gage's drug-trafficking boss ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" star Jason Statham). Diamond's pregnant girlfriend (Tamala Jones) and estranged father (Vondie Curtis-Hall) try to steer him on a more responsible path, but the would-be superstar continues to find himself in more gunfights than in the average Wesley Snipes flick. Will the violence ever end?


Handsome ex-Fugee Pras' refusal to register any emotion whatsoever hampers what little credible drama there is to be found in the script. Just because the quiet, angry thing works for Ice Cube doesn't mean it will work for every rapper-turned-actor. The fierce Ja Rule shows much more promise in his feature debut, though his gat-packing crazyman character is too much of a cliché to go anywhere very interesting. The terrific Curtis-Hall ("Eve's Bayou") perks things up every time his dreadlocked wise man shows up on-screen, but he's criminally underused.


Writer-director Robert Adetuyi tries to have things both ways in the classic Hollywood style -- selling a vague anti-violence message while glamorizing the film's glossy gunfights. Dramatically, the piece seesaws between soap opera-ish personal exchanges and cheesy gangster movie confrontations. Mechanical problems with the plot mount as Diamond and Gage set up the inevitable Big Score, and soon the only question in viewers' minds is how thematically dishonest the action finale will be.

Bottom Line

"Turn It Up" is a major turnoff.


Starring Pras Michel, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Ja Rule and Patricia Velasquez.

Written and directed by Robert Adetuyi. Produced by Madonna and Guy Oseary. Released by New Line Cinema.