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"The Wood"

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In the otherwise inane coming-of-age comedy The Wood, there's a sequence that's more upsetting -- without trying to be -- than anything in Eyes Wide Shut. We've been following, in flashback, the horny-guy exploits of a trio of African-American high-school buddies in the L.A. neighborhood of Inglewood. Stopping off at a local convenience store to stock up on breath mints before a big dance, they find themselves caught in the middle of a holdup. Guns are drawn; the terrified store owner, probably Korean, doesn't resist; the robbery is short-circuited when one of the buddies recognizes the gang-member leader as the brother of a girl he's sweet on, and everybody piles into the getaway car. This is all played for laughs, and there are no repercussions. It's one thing when one of the Tarantinoids pulls off this kind of conscienceless jamboree; at least the pop-nihilist context has been set. But seeing this sort of stuff in a movie that's about as trenchant as Booty Call is unsettling: Have we arrived at the point in our movies when an inner-city convenience-store holdup is viewed as simple slapstick? The people who made this movie have either seen too much mayhem -- or they haven't seen any.


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