A young mother, desperate for a rise in income accepts the offer of a job in a strip club and then gets her cousin a job too unfortunately all does not go well and the staff and clientele of the club are not to be trusted.
Having made the figure of the GWA (Gangsta With Attitude) his own in such fare as Boyz N The Hood, Friday and Trespass, Ice Cube's directorial debut doesn't see him stray too far from his well trod mean streets. Centred on the eponymous strip joint, the film follows the interlocking lives of the hardluck denizens who inhabit it: hooker with a heart (and single mother) Diamond (a feisty debut from LisaRaye); her younger cousin Ebony (Calhoun) who follows Diamond into the strip club as an exotic dancer; club owner Dollar Bill (a fantastically over-the-top Mac) who is in trouble with local gangster St. Louis (Larry McCoy) and as a result spends the rest of the film ducking henchman of pantomine proportions.
As Diamond sees a speck of light in her dark existence with her graduation from high school, Ebony is drawn deeper into the sleazoid underworld by fellow dancer Ronnie (Khrystale Wilson) which encompasses such down'n'dirty dealings as spanking a roomful of cops. When Ebony has to entertain Ronnie's younger brother, he - goaded by a sexist club patron (played by the director in a cameo) - brutally rapes her. Eventually Diamond, with her sights set on a life beyond the club, sets about gaining some serious payback in a shootout of John Woo proportions.
With his trademark cussing and women-baiting clearly painted on the screen, Cube has succeded in creating a visual and aural whirlwind, supplemented by the obligatory pumping hip-hop soundtrack. Yet the script is peppered with hackneyed cliches that serve to compound the feeling that the film has too many roots in a genre suitably drained and left for dead ten years ago.
But, where this film scores highly is in its open and often disturbing portrayal of life among America's seediest levels of society. By not pulling any punches, Cube allows the story to develop at its own pace, punctuated with comical interludes that are in stark contrast to the occasionally shocking, if well travelled, subject matter.
Open and often disturbing portrayal of life among America's seediest levels of society even if it resorts to cliche a little too often