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

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 12, 2013 at 6:19PM

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.
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Thin Line b/w Love & Hate

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?

This article is related to: Martin Lawrence, Lynn Whitfield


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