A scene from 'Two Can Play That Game'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 90 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, September 7, 2001
Written & directed by Mark Brown

Starring Vivica A. Fox, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Tamala Jones, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Anthony Anderson, Mo'Nique, Ray Wise, Bobby Brown, Dondre T. Whitfield


Watching this movie on the small screen will only diminish its few good qualities.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 12.26.2001


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Another comedy with nothing fresh to say about men who are dogs and the women who yank their chains

By Rob Blackwelder

A movie that preaches dishonesty, trickery and manipulation as the keys to romantic happiness, "Two Can Play That Game" is populated by pathetically shallow "players" of both sexes and very talented actors trapped by their skin color in a tired genre of self-perpetuating stereotypes.

"Two Can Play" is about a successful black ad executive (Vivica A. Fox) who thinks her man, a successful black lawyer (Morris Chestnut), may be running around on her. Her solution for shaping him up (rather than confronting him and having an adult conversation or just leaving to find someone better) is to launch into a 10-day plan that includes breaking up, not returning his calls, making sure he sees her with other men, going to his house, getting him hot, then leaving, and a whole litany of other vindictive head games.

Of course, all of this is meant to be risqué and amusing, but in fact it just makes the movie's heroine look like the kind of shrill, immature, self-centered strumpet whom no man in his right mind would want to be saddled with.

Writer-director Mark Brown (who, not surprisingly, penned the similarly callow "How To Be a Player") jumps back and forth between the two warring camps: Fox and her gaggle of "giiiirrrll!"-friends sip wine, talk dirty and strategize how to keep their men whipped. Chestnut and his one-tracked-mind clown of a pal (Anthony Anderson) hunker down on defense, planning rendezvous with skanky tramps (the gorgeous Gabriel Union, for one) and other idiotic demonstrations of vengeful independence, when what Chestnut should be doing is running away as a fast as he can.

Every one of these actors has the goods, but they keep taking interchangeable roles in interchangeable movies about black women having to reign in their black men. Every one of these films ("Baby Boy," "The Brothers" and "love jones" come immediately to mind) has moments of divine comedy or veracity, but they all imply that a woman tricking a philanderer into marrying her is a happy ending. Their respective filmmakers also seem to think cheap, last-reel regrets are all it takes to shore up a flimsy relationship between superficial people.

While these themes are not exclusive to African American cinema, there does seem to be a repetitive pattern emerging and "Two Can Play That Game" is simply more of the same. It also adds a few more patience-testing elements to the mix: A non-stop soundtrack, insultingly blatant product placement and the fact that Fox talks to the camera so much about her "rules" for controlling men that before the very first scene is over she's already come off as an insufferably stuck-up know-it-all.

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