Black And White writer and director James Toback is a filmmaker whose reputation is high but will probably never be invited to helm a major film – his status as a renegade is just too great. But he makes films that are interesting and this, alongside Fingers and Two Girls and a Guy, represent his best work. The circular plot follows Rich (Oliver Power Grant of the Wu Tang Clan) who decides to give up crime for life as a rapper. Suddenly, he’s the darling of rich white folks who want to emulate the black scene, led by dread-locked filmmaker Sam Donager (Brooke Shields) and her husband Terry (Robert Downey Jnr).
Running parallel is the story of basketball player Dean Carter (Allan Houston, a real member of the Knicks team) being persuaded by gambler Mark Clear (Ben Stiller) to throw a game. But Clear is an undercover cop using Dean to get to Rich and when Rich finds out, violence follows…
Largely improvised and using a host of famous names in cameo roles, including Mike Tyson, Toback’s film is both a fascinating look at the white fascination with black culture combined with a murder thriller where cross and double cross across class and racial divides decides people’s fates. Not without its flaws, the film still brims over with originality and vitality that many bigger budget films find hard to match.
USA / 1999
Director and Writer: James Toback
Cast: Oliver Grant, Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jnr, Ben Stiller, Bijou Phillips, Claudia Schiffer