Slicker, funnier and more professional than its predecessor, “State Property 2,” with Damon Dash at its helm, tones down the original. The stylized, lyrical violence that gave the franchise its imprimatur has become less graphic, with gore kept tastefully off-screen. Thesping has improved considerably, particularly that of rapper Beanie Sigel, whose bloody death at the end of the first “Property” was apparently hypothetical. Tongue-in-cheek ‘tude soon pales, however, as pic, which opens today , relies on star cameos to fill the void left by unsustained characterizations. Still, the smart-ass complicity Dash creates with his audience may carry the day commercially.
“Beans” (Sigel) sits in jail, his empire hemorrhaging money in his henchmen’s less-than-competent hands. His Muslim cellmate (a memorable turn by Freeway) hooks him up to a new boy on the block, El Loco Polo (Victor N.O.R.E. Santiago), himself an employee of the mysterious, never-seen El Plaga.
Soon, Beans is back on the street where elaborate setups pit him against longtime enemy Dame (Dash). Things don’t go down exactly like the mysterious El Plaga had anticipated, and arch-rivals Beans and Dame, smelling a rat, warily join forces.
Narrated by each of the players in turn, the action is constantly undercut satirically by unexpected fast-motion, peremptory rewinds or chyroned asides. Thus during a split-screen phone conversation between Beans and his wife, each half of the screen swells or shrinks according to who is in control, until a henpecked Beans occupies a tiny diminishing square at the left of the screen.
Unlike the original “State Property,” where half-naked babes were casually draped over every inch of decor when they weren’t getting raped or killed, here women appear almost exclusively as ironic counterpoint. El Loco’s inevitable downfall begins when he commits the faux pas of rescheduling his Tuesday night date (he has one for every night of the week). Dash brags about his “baddest chick” (a post-“Glitter” Mariah Carey, yet!) just before she angrily confronts him with a litany of venal complaints.
Once introduced, however, characters have no place to go. While the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s guest-shot as a nose-picking short-order cook works fine as a cameo, lead actor Dash’s money-driven careerism is barely fleshed out. In the absence of any real tension, the action, which basically consists of everybody shooting everybody else or threatening to do so, feels colorless and repetitive.
No matter how idiotic the dialogue or atrocious the acting in the first “State Property,” the miscellaneous massacres were well choreographed. Here, though, voiceover narration alone juices up the confrontations with a bunch of guys discharging their guns at off-screen targets: Dash’s sarcastic narration comments on the “sophistication” of his homeboys’ problem-solving as they open their car trunk and empty their guns into the hapless victim therein.
Tech credits are uneven. Sets and locations, noticeably free of the first “State Property’s” ostentatious bling, seem underdressed and poorly defined. In keeping with pic’s lighter tone, inhouse rap score eschews usual wall-to-wall aggressiveness.