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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 75:55)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Theatrical trailer

Set it Off

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 118 mins . MA15+ . PAL


F. Gary Gray surprised the box office last year with the successful and thrilling remake of the classic film The Italian Job. Set It Off is from Gray, a film made some years prior to that 2003 box office hit, and is one film that features some pretty realistic action as well as a slightly formulaic, simulated and amateurish screenplay.

Starring three of the hottest African-American talents in Hollywood - Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Jada Pinkett Smith - Set It Off tells the story of four women wanting to escape from the confines of the ‘hood and start a new life. In order to do this, they need money. And how do you get money? You rob a bank of course. Duh!

Yeah, it’s all been done before, but there is enough substance, if you can call it that, to keep you attached for the two hour duration. Yeah, shock horror, this is coming from somebody who is normally anal about originality and substance. But oh well, everyone’s brain needs a night off. A few things got a little irritating though. Queen Latifah’s character is a blatant lesbian, including a rather seductive dance scene by her partner. But really, who cares? This is one of the many key parts of the plot which really do not make the film any more special or unique, and does not in any way drive the film further. Another example is the predictable and highly boring sex scene that you can see coming a mile away. Yawn.

The slick compares Set It Off with Thelma and Louise. The only fair comparison here is that they have similar plots. The differences, of which there are many, start out with the fact that Thelma and Louise is a cinema classic, Thelma and Louise was a box office success and Thelma and Louise had only two women, one of them Geena Davis – you can’t compare her to anyone, period.

The film opens with Frankie (Fox) working hard at a bank, a week after she received a large promotion. A gang of clever, cunning and conniving robbers, acquaintances of Frankie, decide to rob her bank, leading to her termination of employment due to being suspected an accessory to the crime. Unemployed, Frankie still has a life to live, and joins her friends Stony (Pinkett Smith), Cleo (Latifah) and TT (Elise) cleaning an office building at nights to pay her way. But these four women want something more. They want to get out. With inside knowledge of the inner workings of banks, the group decide to hit one, but at what point do your robbings turn into greed? These women will learn the value of relationships, life, death, greed, family, money and ultimately the priceless nature of friendships throughout the film, and come to a thrilling finale with a thin moral that we can successfully resume our lives with.


Roadshow’s anamorphic presentation in a widescreen aspect of 1.78:1 looks great for a 1996 film, boasting a clear picture free of film-related artefacts and with only a hint of grain to disturb the peace. Colours are neatly saturated, boldly conveying the colours of Los Angeles with dismal smoggy shades and warm hazy tones. The only real visual nasty is the odd occurrence of some digital noise reduction - most notably on the roof of a bank during the finale to the film - although it will only be disturbing to those suffering from severe anal retention. Apart from this, the transfer is highly watchable, and very easy on the eye, especially for a 1996 film.


The sole Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack is choice, offering a rich 5.1 soundstage with a healthy level of surround action, plus rich pulsing bass and clear dialogue. Whether you can understand the dialogue is the next thing, but if your lingo isn’t up to scratch before watching this film, it sure will be by the end of it. Synch is spot-on throughout, and comes primarily from the centre channel. Front left and right separation is limited to the action sequences, as is the discrete surround action, but when it takes off she really does fly. Just a point to notice, the cover states that there is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, however this could not be found.


The anamorphically enhanced 16:9 menus are static and feature no audio, and link to the only extra feature, a fairly basic theatrical trailer. Now let’s not forget the Dolby tag either prior to the film – a 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation of the Dolby Train trailer, the short version at least, which lets you know if your sound system is working and if your windows need replacing. Choo choo!


Set It Off is actually a pretty decent movie, even if it scrapes one barrel in originality and overflows the other barrel with clichés. Sure, it has been done before, and some parts seem a little contrived and tedious, but ultimately, as said before, this film has enough substance to keep a viewer attentive for the two hour duration. Roadshow’s transfer is sublime, with a bass-hungry 5.1 soundtrack and a super-slick video transfer. This is definitely worth a rent before purchasing, yet still forms a night’s entertainment where you want to watch something out-there, obscene and something that will really set it off, even if it turns your brain off in the process.

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      And I quote...
    "All some will want to do with this film is turn it off... But in the end, it’s decent, just not brilliant."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS530
    • TV:
          Sharp SX76NF8 76cm Widescreen
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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