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Flashback To 1996: 'A Thin Line Between Love & Hate' (Martin Lawrence's Magnum Opus?)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
April 12, 2013 6:19 PM
7 Comments
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Has Martin Lawrence given us his best work yet? The 47-year old has more than 25 films on his resume; but I'm not concerned with all 25, instead those few films in which Lawrence STARS, and that depend almost entirely on the success of his performance. So, films like the Bad Boys franchise don't count, because he's partnered up with an even bigger star in Will Smith, in films directed by a mega director/producer in Michael Bay, also a star in his own right.

I'd also dismiss films in which he's part of an ensemble cast like Boomerang for example. 

I'm talking about films like the Big Momma's House series, Black KnightRebound, and a few others in which Lawrence was the central character, or the main narrative revolved around the character he played. 

I'll throw A Thin Line Between Love And Hate onto that list - a film that Martin also wrote and co-directed (the only time he's ever sat in the director's chair).

I'm also not talking about his TV projects. Let's just focus on film specifically.

Of those few films he almost singularly carries by himself, would you say that we've seen the best of Martin Lawrence, or is there still something more that brothaman can give us that we haven't already seen? Maybe a true dramatic role, perhaps. Or a really profound comedy.

Or would you say that his best work lies in the supporting character roles he's played in film, or on his hit TV show in the 1990s?

What I do know is that of all the films of his I've seen in which he plays the central figure, I'd say that A Thin Line Between Love And Hate is maybe his most peculiar, but in a good way. That's not to say that it's an exemplary piece of filmmaking; however, in watching it again last night (I hadn't seen it in years), I actually had to tickle myself, because I really wanted to keep watching, as Karma shows how much of a bitch she can be, when this Lothario becomes a victim of one of his conquests, played well enough, I thought, by the lovely Lynn Whitfield, who, at first glance, one wouldn't think they'd find in a movie like this; there are actually love scenes in which she reveals boob, as she rolls around naked with Martin Lawrence.

Ok so maybe Hollywood wasn't exactly pounding down her with projects at the time, but she'd only. a few years prior. done The Josefine Baker Story and Stomping At The Savoy. With her pedigree (top-level performance education, and lots of stage work), she just wasn't the kind of actress one would expect to co-star in a film like this back then (although, not so much today, with some of our most revered actresses doing Tyler Perry movies for similar reasons - work). 

But she did co-star in the film, and, in a way, her presence seemed to elevate the overall quality of the production, which I should say also boasts other good performances (given the material they had to work with) from Della Reese and Regina King. I even liked Martin Lawrence's usual energetic delivery, which he, thankfully, kept subdued this time around.

The subject matter it tackles - essentially Fatal Attraction-light and with a comedic twist - at times feels a bit too serious to be a comedy, and other times too flippant to be the thriller it seems to want to be, and that unevenness is to the film's detriment. However, there are enough genuine laughs, and even moments of reflection, to keep one modestly engaged for its 108 minute running time.

It's camp.

But, in away, that unevenness actually makes it feel as if there was some real thought put into the creation of the film, more-so than several of Lawrence's other works, before and after this film. 

So, in the ho-hum valley that is Martin Lawrence's filmography, I'd say A Thin Line Between Love And Hate is his most interesting work, for whatever that's worth. I was entertained enough, and didn't feel numb or like an idiot for watching it; so maybe this is one of those guilty pleasure flicks for me. 

In closing, I suppose I have a 2-part question: first, do you think Martin Lawrence has given us his best work yet? And if so, in what? Or is there still something left in him that just hasn't been tapped into, and the project that will do just that, is in his future? 

And secondly, of all the films he's carried thus far, which do you think is best?

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7 Comments

  • c | April 15, 2013 7:14 PMReply

    This and the movie "Life" was his best movies.

  • LeonRaymond | April 13, 2013 5:40 PMReply

    @GETTHESENETS - Thanks you were right on the money. Oh no I saw both of those films and series, you didn't spoil it for me, I agree, I just think Lynn shows so much of the character with out all the gyrating and actor tricks by just the slightest of facial expression. I too feel Angela is a superb actress and I think there was a moment where before she disappeared she was at the top of her form but I think her regal stance and reluctance to not be cast in a lot of projects short changed us in the discussion. There was another who was coming on fast who I felt was Angela's equal in every way and that was Khandi Alexander

  • Monique a Williams | April 13, 2013 9:27 AMReply

    I remember thinking that Lynn Whitfield was too good to be in this movie and that's what gave it some credibility. Martin at his best, for sure.

  • ALM | April 12, 2013 10:29 PMReply

    I'll never forget the scene where she beats herself with the package of oranges and then frames Martin. It was so sick, twisted and unbelievable.

    I think Martin is highly talented, and he has years of good work left in him. He just needs to push past whatever caused that mental break a while ago. Sometimes I feel as if he never really fully got over whatever caused that break.

    As far as movies that he has headlined, "Blue Streak" was cute.

  • getthesenets | April 12, 2013 9:31 PMReply

    Lynn Whitfield made this movie..and she semi-replayed the role in an epsiode of Martin.

    I think she's the one of the unique talents in Hollywood.
    For a time Alfre Woodard, CCH Pounder got every serious dramatic role for older Black women....and then Angela Basset was the go to woman...I think Whitfield has more acting range than either of them.


    ============================================

    I think Martin owes his fans ONE classic concert film.
    He's been funny on tv shows, funny on Def Jam, funny in bit, co star and starring roles in films but has not hit a home run in terms of standup specials/concerts.

    Since he's originally a standup comedian......we need to see that.


    As far as the question about his starring vehicles, have to understand that as a comic presence...I think you need a partner...either a straight man/foil or another comedian to interact with.

    Lot of material can be adlibbed into scenes playing off your co-star...In Life with Eddie and Bad Boys 1 with Will, we've seen so far....the best of Martin.

    Not sure if Will smith was a hotter talent when Bad Boys 1 came out or a bigger star (among Black people)


    *As far as what you wrote about Whitfield and the awkwardness of her being attached to what you perceived about the project, the late actress Shirley Hemphill had an interesting take on a related topic.

    Saw her doing standup live one night, she was a mentor of Martin's, and she said that one of the things that she loved about the show Martin was that it showed 2 people(Martin and Gina) from different backgrounds and "social classes" and examined(not exploited) some of the cultural differences between people from different walks of life. She said it was the first Black tv show that did that in a comedic but REAL way.

    I think Martin was able to mine some of that territory in Thin Line..with the casting and with the script.

  • getthesenets | April 13, 2013 12:22 PM

    @Leon

    Grew up in a house with older sisters and ONE tv set, so lot of times I had to watch what they were watching or go read a book. Saw Women of Brewster Place tv movie, and was probably too young to fully grasp the story...was blown away by Lynn Whitfield.
    won't spoil it if you haven't seen it.
    We had lived in a setting not too different from the setting of the film and we knew women just like the character she played, and a few who went through the stuff that character went through....and it was as if we weren't watching a film anymore, but a documentary.

    The very next role that I remember seeing her in was in Stompin At the Savoy...and she played a character who went through a completely different kind of transition..and she masterfully embodied that role also. again won't spoil if you haven't seen it.

    I can sit through a film about women(black women) and discuss it with my lady and the good thing is, she is then forced to sit through the stuff I enjoy watching like 70s action films and Troma films...

    In everything I've seen her in since, she's been the most authentic part of the story.
    Angela is a fine actress....bad jamerican accent in Notorious notwithstanding but EVERYTHING I've ever seen of Lynn has been stellar..even bit roles in 50 cent straight to dvd stuff like "all things fall apart"

  • LeonRaymond | April 13, 2013 11:13 AM

    @GETTHESENETS That's a tough one I can't disagree with you about Lynn Whitfield I hope maybe it's not just cause I have loved her in a lot of films my favorite being her role in Eve's Bayou. You said she has more range than Angela, again no disagreement but I just want to know why you feel that way and why. please point it out in film/actor cinematic terms cause a lot of actors like Lynn good ones use only the head and eyes to make point in a scene. so too many use so much body lingo like hands, shoulders, fingers, Lynn and Angela are so subtle with it. But I want to hear your take. I deeply love this kind of discussion !!!

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