The first of two on-going series this month is all about Women in Film. It could be genres, actresses, filmmakers, whatever we please but it will be about one thing… Badass Women. Badass doesn’t have to tote a gun, they could just be tough as nails to take on An All-Boys Club like directing or Genre films. In fact, every Woman is a badass in their own right…
Set It Off really should be known as one of the best action dramas of the 1990’s. Period. End of discussion. But … it’s not. Why? I can only surmise it’s because the film is an All-Black Female cast. What makes the film so vital even now twenty plus years later? It’s the attention that screenwriters Takashi Bufford & Kate Lanier take to imbue a real sense of stakes and need in the lives of these women. Each of the cast is aces from Jada Pinkett-Smith (before she became Pinkett-Smith), Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise. The script allows them to create fully realized characters and characters up until that point we had never seen on screen. Each of them distinctly creates not only fully realized characters but women who find their own strength. More than a crime film this is a film about acts of defiance about not allowing you and those you care about to be defined by social conventions that cage women and women of color into a prison of society’s making.
The plot of normal people getting into the bank robbing business has been copied time and time again before this film and after this film. But none were as dramatically satisfying and urgent as Set It Off. Armed with a killer soundtrack, great set pieces, and truly wonderful performances this heist film is in the same realm as Heat or any of the best work by Michael Mann. The film represents the finest work that F. Gary Gray had done until Straight Out of Compton.
Release Year: 1996
Director(s): F. Gary Gray
Writers: Kate Lanier, Takashi Bufford
Cast: Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise, John C. McGinley, Blair Underwood, Dr. Dre, Charlie Robinson, Ella Joyce, WC, Charles Walker