You’d think I’d have burnt the vault down by now with all the birthday candles I keep lit. I do enjoy showing birthday love and at my celebrations I’d make certain Milton would get a piece of cake. Today we gather to celebrate the birthday of writer-director-producer-actor Keenen Ivory Wayans.
Shame (Keenen Ivory Wayans) is a private detective who takes crap cases for shit pay and still doesn’t make ends meet as his outspoken, loudmouthed assistant Peaches (Jada Pinkett) frequently reminds him. A visit from his old colleague, Sonny Rothmiller (Charles S. Dutton), stuns the quick-with-a-comeback and quicker-with-a-gun shamus. Shame’s former lover Angela (Salli Richardson) is in town and set to testify against her ex, Mendoza (Andrew Divoff), the drug lord who left Shame’s life in shambles the last time they crossed paths.
Billed as an action comedy, A Low Down Dirty Shame is heavy on the comedy, but does not disappoint when the action gets going. As much as I love the dialogue and Keenen’s style of comedy, I won’t deny that some of the blend of racial, homosexual and testosterone-charged comedy is just plain cheesy. It’s a standard requirement for action leads to get in some one-liners, but some of Shame’s jokes require a hefty bit of set up. On the one hand, the build-up gives A Low Down Dirty Shame a more authentic edge, but on the other hand the set ups stumble the plot’s momentum.
When he’s not directing or writing A Low Down Dirty Shame, Keenen Ivory Wayans proves he’s as decent at beating up the bad guys as he is at belittling them. Jada Pinkett-Smith, who looks miniscule alongside the towering Wayans, portrays Peaches with the sass and fire of a woman twice Keenen’s size. She brings Peaches right to the edge of annoying without making audiences despise her. Andrew Divoff is by far one of my favorite typecast actors of the 90s, commanding a fierce villainous presence with his nonchalant attitude and devious expression.
Corwin Hawkins, who died prior to the release of A Low Down Dirty Shame, is hilarious as the brazenly homosexual Wayman. As Angela, the one who got away, Salli Richardson-Whitfield is perfect as the unobtainable seductress, and not just because she’s smoking hot from the moment she appears onscreen. She toys with Shame’s emotions, but is quick to show her true darker desires when necessary.
In the 90s, one might have overlooked A Low Down Dirty Shame because it lacks a big name action star or tons of explosions. I’d argue Keenen makes a respectable hero, and Divoff an unscrupulous villain. They both get in some solid punches, and Keenen lands even more punchlines. Shame promises to satisfy and I guarantee you’ll leave with a few more quotable lines to add to your cinematic repertoire.