Movie Reviews : Run-DMC’s ‘Tougher Than Leather’ Is <i> Bad</i> , Really

Don’t look for Run-DMC to scoop up armloads of statuettes at next year’s Image Awards. The renowned rap trio’s first action film, “Tougher Than Leather” (selected theaters), is all about image, all right, but not exactly the kind the NAACP is eager to bestow blessings upon. Its violent, sexist bent harkens defiantly and perhaps embarrassingly back to the “blaxploitation” era of the ‘70s.

As a tailor-made star vehicle for a top-selling pop group, “Tougher” is a long way from “A Hard Day’s Night.” As a rap picture, it bears scant resemblance to “Krush Groove” (in which Run-DMC made a brief appearance) or other modern movies about nice kids finding expression through black street culture. Here we have machine guns, knife fights and crack, but nary a smile cracked by any of our three heroes, who are bent on revenge for the drug-related murder of an innocent homeboy.

Unlikely heirs to the thrones of Richard Roundtree and Ron O’Neal, this threesome nevertheless proves more than adept at wielding pistols, bashing heads and bedding the ladies.

Performance scenes with Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys and several guest stars carry far more force than the action scenes ill-directed by first-timer Rick Rubin, who also served as co-screenwriter, co-executive producer, music producer and the film’s most heinous villain.


As an utterly vile white man, Rubin has plenty of company on screen in the rabble-rousing “Tougher Than Leather” (MPAA-rated R for violence, nudity and non-stop profanity). Suffice it to say that the sole models of Caucasian virtue in the picture are the Beastie Boys, who pop in just long enough to stick their fingers up their noses and play with their food at the dinner table.

To borrow the parlance of the genre, dis this.