Rap star and recording mogul Master P gets little comic mileage from his first star vehicle, a raucous but witless farce called “I Got the Hook-Up.” Little more than a loosely connected string of sketch-comedy episodes, pic will click only with the least demanding of inner-city ticket buyers.
Master P, who also served as screenwriter and executive producer, co-stars with stand-up comic A.J. Johnson (“The Players Club”) as a pair of South-Central L.A. scam artists who operate a “shopping center” from a van in a vacant lot. Most of the time, Black (Master P) and Blue (Johnson) deal in boom boxes and defective TV sets. But when a van driver mistakenly delivers a shipment of cell phones to their marketplace, Black and Blue opt to become slightly more upscale entrepreneurs.
With the help of a neighborhood hacker (Anthony Boswell) and sexy cellular fraud investigator (Gretchen Palmer), the con men do a brisk business with their unreliable merchandise. But when a hulking thug (Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr.) inadvertently broadcasts info about a money pick-up while using one of the illegal cell phones, he vows to get more than a refund when he catches up with Black and Blue.
Also on the trail of the con men: a phone company security chief (Frantz Turner), two FBI agents with colorful private lives, and every neighborhood ne’er-do-well who wants to collect the bounty on the con men’s heads.
Every so often, though not nearly often enough, “I Got the Hook-Up” manages to offer a mildly amusing comic riff. John Witherspoon is hilarious as a cranky TV repairman whose seedy shop fronts a veritable Playboy Mansion of sexy excess. Ice Cube, a rap star whose own success in movies likely inspired Master P, has a brief, self-satirizing cameo.
And music supervisor Andrew Shack cleverly mixes familiar tunes from “Shaft” and “Superfly” with the CD-ready soundtrack of songs by contemporary rap artists (including, of course, Master P).
For the most part, however, “I Got the Hook-Up” is an overbearingly loud and tediously vulgar trifle, the sort of comedy that depends heavily on jokes about large breasts, sexual appetites and foul-mouthed grandmothers.
Michael Martin’s direction is as uninspired as Master P’s script, though not quite as aggressively vulgar. Characters don’t converse so much as they try to out-shout each other. Master P and A.J. Johnson glide through the chaos with all the smooth self-assurance of actors who have already read the script and know they will turn out just fine in the end. Unfortunately, neither lead player is engaging enough to give the audience a rooting interest in his fate.
Dialogue is difficult to understand in a few scenes. Otherwise, tech values are reasonably competent.