August 99: Butter: aka Never Too Big

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by Sékou
Written and directed by: Peter Gathings Bunche Cover of Never 2 Big Video
Studio: World International Network, Butter Films, Cinetec Pictures
Cast: Shemar Moore, Nia Long, Ernie Hudson, Donnie Whalberg, Tony Todd

It's always with trepidation that I pick up a straight-to-video movie (STV). You already know why. Most of us share the notion that STV's always come complete with substandard acting, mediocre plots, and the kind of lighting that implies the director shot the whole thing by candlelight. Especially the STV's featuring African-Americans. Well, I've changed my mind. Sure, there are some bad STV's out there, but there are bad movies in the theater too, right? And wouldn't you rather pay the Blockbuster price for a bad movie than the theater price? If you're wondering why I sound like a salesman for your local video store, allow me to explain. I am selling something-- not the services of video rental stores everywhere but rather the African-American STV's that reside there. STV's are a gold mine. They're relatively inexpensive, they employ vast numbers of talented African-American actors and they can be quite entertaining.


Freddy (Shemar Moore) and his foster sister Blusette (Salli Richardson) are at the top of the music industry. Blusette is a multi-platinum singer, and Freddy is a hot music industry executive who's guiding her career under the careful tutelage of Eight Ball (Ernie Hudson). Soon enough, we learn that Eight Ball is nothing short of a small time hood in search of the big score that will make the rest of his champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true. Blusette gets hip to his game and refuses to be a pawn in whatever deal he's got going. Soon thereafter, she turns up dead and Freddy has to figure out who killed her and how to keep himself from winding up inside a body bag too.


Shemar Moore was a bundle of charisma as the Bronx-born kid loath to give up the good life his sister's singing has provided him. I can see more leading roles in his future. Ernie Hudson completes a menacing performance as the surly and self-serving Eight ball. Nia Long was as good as always playing an innocent bystander caught up in a mess she has nothing to do with. Mark Whalberg's brother Donnie takes a crack at acting here with a turn as a perpetually whispering young mobster.


As far as STV's go Butter was pretty good. I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent plot, a few unexpected twists and actors who portrayed intriguing characters. The cameos were the best part of the movie though. Telling would spoil the surprise, but if you're an African-American film fan you'll see a lot of familiar faces. Need one more movie to round out your trip to the video store? Pick this one up.


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