Friday May 12, 2000
Not far from the Grand Canyon, Michael (Jamie Foxx) and Rae (Nia Long)--a vacationing couple from Chicago--are driving across the desert in a mint-condition '57 Golden Hawk Studebaker. Rae is not as thrilled with her fiance's recent purchase as he is, especially since the radio doesn't work and the only tape on hand is Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon."
Alas, for the easygoing Michael, Rae's bad mood is but the beginning of a rotten day about to go infinitely worse when they stop at a gas station-convenience store, the Sip & Zip.
Learning that Michael actually paid $13,000 for the car and not the $5,000 that he said, Rae realizes he has blown their down payment on a house and, enraged, hitches a ride to the nearest airport. When Michael discovers he's locked himself out of his treasured car, a woman appears to come to his rescue--only to drive off in the Golden Hawk. Then Michael finds himself a hostage in a stickup of the Sip & Zip.
This is just the beginning of the amiable cross-cultural comedy "Held Up," written by first-timer Jeff Eastin and directed by the veteran Steve Rash. The Sip & Zip is owned and operated by the acerbic Jack (John Cullum) and the key robber is Eduardo Yanez's Rodrigo, an inept rank amateur, who has turned desperado under dire personal circumstances.
Also on hand are pretty local housewife (Sarah Paulson); a biker (Michael Shamus Wiles), a veritable walking encyclopedia; and a little boy (Sam Gifaldi), the only person in the area who thinks that it's cool that Michael happens to be black; when the boy asks him if he's really Puff Daddy he sees no reason not to disabuse him of the notion. In no time the sheriff (Barry Corbin) and his chief deputy (Jake Busey) and his trigger-happy men have the Sip & Zip under siege. (The adults garble Michael's last name, Dawson, and conclude that he's none other than Mike Tyson--a clever jab at the they-all-look-alike syndrome experienced by all racial minorities.)
The filmmakers are good at suggesting an underlying wariness caused by racial and cultural differences that adds to the tension of the situation without seeming heavy-handed. Ironically, were these people not caught up in a hostage situation they would not otherwise get to know one another. Of course, such a standoff means a halt to conventional action, which presents a challenge to the filmmakers to sustain interest and momentum until the crisis is resolved.
The makers of "Held Up" don't do too badly, but there is a lull half way through the film, which is typical of fledgling screenwriters. (Veterans know that to keep a film's middle perking can be a greater challenge than getting a film started or winding it up.)
Foxx is so likable and funny, and he's so well-supported by a substantial cast--including Julie Hagerty as an airport waitress--that the film should probably slide by its more static moments on good will. "Held Up" is a pleasant diversion, and its makers have been smart enough to keep it unpretentious.
Held Up, 2000. PG-13, for language, violence and sexuality. A Trimark Pictures presentation in association with Minds Eye Pictures. Director Steve Rash. Producers Neal H. Moritz, Jonathon Komack Martin, Stokely Chaffin. Executive producers Mark Amin, Devin DeWalt. Screenplay Jeff Eastin; from a story by Eastin and Erik Fleming. Cinematographer David A. Makin. Editor Jonathan Chibnall. Music Robert Folk. Costumes Eduardo Castro. Production designer Rick Roberts. Art director Marion Pon. Set decorator Paul Healy. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. Jamie Foxx as Michael. Nia Long as Rae. Barry Corbin as Sheriff Pembry. Jake Busey as Beaumont.