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Front seat: Hair and peace

Front seat: Hair and peace

The cousin of fiery film-maker Spike Lee (Malcolm X), Malcolm D. Lee’s work has been a mixed bag, but in Barbershop — The Next Cut, he takes a page out of Spike’s book and tackles social issues faced by black neighbourhoods in a comedy/drama that is frankly one of the most watchable films of 2016 so far.

The Barbershop itself has had a bit of an uneven ride. Released in 2002, the first was an excellent African American comedy/drama that quickly gained cult status. Its sequel from 2004, Barbershop 2 — Back in Business, was a bit sloppy, and the less that is said about the spin-off Beauty Shop (2005), the better.

It has taken 12 years for this third sequel to find its way to the silver screen, and it carries everything that made the original special and more. Returning is Ice Cube (Calvin) as the star of the film. Calvin, of course is the owner of the barbershop where everything — from politics, to racial issues, and gossip — is discussed freely in a Chicago neighborhood where African Americans are at risk from not only gang violence, but racist cops as well.

Others include the cranky veteran barber Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), J.D. played by a remarkably slim-looking Anthony Anderson, Jerrod (Lamorne Morris) and Academy Award-winning actor/rapper Common (Rashad), amongst others.

Rashad, a good friend of Calvin, has gotten married to Terri (Eve), who for the longest time was the only female haircutter in the shop. This all changed when Calvin formed a partnership with Angie (Regina Hall), adding more female hairdressers to the business.

One of the new additions is Draya, played in a wonderfully bubbly performance by Nicky Minaj, who proves she can act. Draya shares a tense relationship with Terri after flirting with her husband. Fortunately, the two actresses share amusing chemistry to make this cliché work effectively.  

Although the barbershop is making money hand over fist, Calvin entertains the idea of moving his establishment elsewhere because he worries his 14-year-old son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr) may fall prey to gang influences. Here, Calvin steps in a strong statement from the film about fatherhood.

The issues of violence hit the barbershop head on when gunfire erupts outside the shop, leaving everyone scrambling for cover except Eddie, who argues it would be too much of an effort to get back up. Another tense situation takes place when gang rivals choose to air their differences inside the shop premises.

Fed up with the tension on the streets, both Calvin and Angie come up with a novel solution: the duo calls for a 48-hour ceasefire when anyone and everyone can come in for a free haircut. This proves to be smart for the neighborhood peace, and ultimately smart for business.

Not all of the film’s jokes work and some of the dialog has a tendency to ramble on, but overall, Barbershop — The Next Cut is smartly written by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver. The serious ideas on race, gender, socioeconomic classes and sexuality are wrapped inside an often funny script, and benefit from strong acting.

Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 15th, 2016

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