- Gibson and Good make like Bonnie and Clyde for an even more degenerate age.
About three-quarters of the way through Waist Deep, the hero of the piece -- an indestructible ex-convict who calls himself O2 (2 Fast 2 Furious star Tyrese Gibson) -- peers out through the swirling smoke and the bloody mayhem of an urban killing ground and experiences a revelation. "Somethin' ain't right," he observes. It's just about the truest moment we get in a movie where so many things ain't right that it's hard to keep up the count. Between its ridiculous lapses in dramatic logic and its ever-shifting attitudes toward men, women, and murder, this has to be one of the sloppiest crime thrillers ever to reach the screen. It's as if the co-writers knocked out their drafts on separate planets, then e-mailed them to a nine-year-old for rewrite.
Waist Deep's primary conceit is the claim that it's a contemporary Bonnie and Clyde, the kind of socially and sexually charged cops-and-robbers story in which the romantic fugitives win the hearts of the public and the enmity of the authorities before going out in a blaze of glory. The alleged stand-ins here are O2, whose son, Junior, has been kidnapped in a street-gang carjacking, and a sullen but sizzling Los Angeles streetwalker named Coco (Meagan Good), who's on the gangstas' payroll. Supposedly thrown together by mutual need, they go on a 24-hour crime spree to raise money for the boy's $100,000 ransom and Coco's emancipation from the life, while a series of hip-hop hits blast away on the soundtrack. Apparently, it occurs to neither of these inadvertent felons that shaking down the hideouts and robbing the safe-deposit boxes of two rival street gangs might get them into some serious trouble. Or that ransom payments may be completely beside the point.
Bonnie and Clyde? In case we don't get the idea, a convenience-store clerk who encounters the daring couple late in their run marvels at their TV-induced notoriety: "You're the new Bonnie and Clyde. How about an autograph?"
How about a dose of consistency? Like dozens of action movies before it, Waist Deep makes a half-hearted pass at social responsibility with a couple of speeches about the curse of street drugs, the scourge of violent gangs, and the failure of city authorities to look out for the "homeland security" of its own citizens. In later scenes, however, it can't help fawning over the fruits of crime in the 'hood: Despite what may be good intentions, these filmmakers present the huge black Hummers and the flashy Rolexes of the bad guys, their piles of cash and their awesome heavy artillery, like the items on a wish list or full-page ads in a glossy magazine. O2 may be righteous in his revenge and pure in his love for his son, and Coco may have the perfect booty, but it's Big Meat who owns all the stuff people covet. What we have here is a tacit endorsement of greedy gangsta life, vaguely disguised within a morality play. As Bonnie and Clyde could tell you, somethin' ain't right.