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  Tougher Than Leather That's A Rap
Year: 1988
Director: Rick Rubin
Stars: Darryl McDaniels, Joseph Simmons, Jason Mizell, Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, Ric Menello, Adam Yauch, Mike D, Adam Horowitz, Jenny Lumet, Lois Ayres, George Godfrey, Richard Edson, Mickey Rubin, Slick Rick, Daniel Simmons, Raymond White
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: DMC (Darryl McDaniels) is getting out of prison today after six months inside, and as the warden observes, although he hasn't got into trouble during all his time behind bars, he still shows no remorse. No matter, for now he is out, and meets his friends Run (Joseph Simmons) and Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) at the gates; after a moment of awkward silence, they shake hands and are on their way back to town. Along the way, they discuss what it was like for him and somehow the conversation turns towards Jay's recurring dream about getting his dick bitten off...

Such is the equally awkward tone of this, the movie which intended to make movie stars of rap superstars Run DMC. They had appeared before on the big screen in Krush Groove, but their Def Jam record label evidently had high hopes for them, even though for all the money they must have earned for them the budget for this looked to have been kept at the barest minimum. Perhaps the brainchild behind this was hoping to harken back to the glory days of blaxploitation flicks, which after all weren't often blessed with the most massive amounts of cash behind them, but that brainchild was not only responsible for the script, he directed and produced as well.

That man was Rick Rubin, a legendary music producer for a wide variety of artists but making his name with rap, hence the appearance here of his protégés The Beastie Boys, a long way from their spiky Buddhism days to come and acting like a bunch of brats, in accordance with the image they played up to in the early years of their careers. We get to see them perform, as does Slick Rick who tells us in rhyme to treat women like prostitutes, but the most musical numbers are taken by the starring act, delivering versions of some of their better known tunes (no Walk This Way, however).

I say musical numbers, but they were all basically filmed on stage doing their thing and there was no singing and dancing complete with a chorus of high kicking showgirls, although heaven knows something this drab could have done with it. After around half an hour of meandering around Run DMC getting a record deal from Rubin playing a scuzzy gangster looking to use their talents for money laundering, most of which almost turns comedic without actually raising many laughs, the plot appears and what we have on our hands is a thriller. In fact, what this could have been called is Run DMC: Rap Detectives when Russell Simmons is shot dead by Rubin's Vic for looking into the camera too much and made to look as if he was victim to a failed crack deal.

Our heroes are not going to accept that and decide to fly in the face of police indifference, but where this could have been a genuine novelty, sort of Sherlock Holmes for rappers (you can make up your own pun there), it mostly trudges from scene to scene, barely gathering momentum and exposing the mildly embarrassing lack of acting skills on the part of the cast. Throw in the boys beating up racists, and sharing the sexual favours of a blonde bombshell (porn star Lois Ayres) offscreen, and other such would-be cool interludes which they fail to spark into cinematic life, and you wish Rubin had brought in a writer other than himself who could have done the group justice. As it is, Tougher Than Leather has a slapdash presentation which makes you hanker for the rappers to take to the stage again, and when you're sitting through conversations which would barely pass muster in the lamest of rap album skits disappointment would likely be the strongest emotion here.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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