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Rappers Pras and Ja Rule star as Diamond and Gage, drug-dealing buddies on the mean streets of New York, in this energetic but hopelessly muddled hip-hop crime thriller. You've seen it all before: the childhood street pals hit the crisis point when Diamond wants to go straight and hot-headed Gage aspires to become the baddest gangsta on the block. Ja Rule plays the loose cannon bad boy Gage with pent-up anger and a bullying sneer, a firecracker next to burnt-out match Pras, whose commitment-shy suffering artist has a sleepy, withdrawn blandness until he's out on the streets. "I can't guarantee I'll be there for you," Diamond lamely sputters to his pregnant girlfriend before heading back out for a night of music and gunplay, coming to life with two-fisted ferocity as he coolly empties clip after clip into rival gangs. Director-screenwriter Robert Adetuyi never worries about reconciling the two sides of Diamond, and the contradictory clichés about loyalty and responsibility are delivered without a trace of irony. The John Woo-inspired action scenes are the highlights of the film, flashy, high-energy explosions of excitement that reveal Diamond as a cool-headed, criminally sharp gangster at heart. He just doesn't know it, and the film is too embarrassed to admit it. This glib, sense-numbing action fantasy coasts on the energy of the action and the music while having it both ways: violence without personal consequences and decisions without repercussions. --Sean Axmaker
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