Our Rating: ★★★★½
L Factor: Major lesbian character
Short Take: In an LA housing project, four African-American friends are trapped by the system and decide that bank robbery is their ticket to financial freedom.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1996
Duration: 123 min
Language: USA/English
Director: F. Gary Gray
Writer: Takashi Bufford
Starring: Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise, Blair Underwood, Samantha MacLachlan

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Set It OffIn an LA housing project, four African-American friends deal with feeling trapped by the system, burdened by poverty, racism and sexism. Frankie (Vivica A. Fox) has been unjustly fired from her job; Stony’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) younger brother is killed by the cops; T.T.’s (Kimberly Elise) baby is taken away by social services when she can’t afford a babysitter; and Cleo (Queen Latifah) is just angry at everyone and everything.

After someone they know successfully robs a bank, they decide that bank robbery can be their ticket to financial freedom. Early successes feed their confidence, but when the owner of the janitorial service where they all work steals the cache of money, the four become more desperate. With cops hot on the case, what is to be the final bank job turns into a major police chase with guns blazing. Not all of them will make it out alive.

This is a powerful, emotional crime drama with a major action component. Of specific interest is the character of Cleo, a tough dyke with a love of lowriders, automatic weapons and her sexy girlfriend Ursula (Samantha MacLachlan). Queen Latifah is impressive in the role, as is Jada Pinkett Smith as Stony.

Nominated for a GLAAD Media Award and an NAACP Image Award. Queen Latifah also sings on the hip hop soundtrack. (AB)