I don't know what to say about Elise Neal. After her supporting role in Hustle & Flow as Anthony Anderson's wife Yvette, I would have believed that Elise Neal would have gotten better roles. But I suppose that everyone has to pay the bills.
4 Life however would not be the movie I would choose to pay them.
The film is supposed to be set around a gang organization known as D4L (Dogs Of Life) which consists of Dayvon (Wood Harris of The Wire) and Ty (Page Kennedy). Dayvon is the calm, laid back second in command who takes over as leader of the organization after Ty is put in prison. The deal would be, as established early on in the film, that Dayvon would turn over the reins to him once his term was up.
Insert plot cliche — Dayvon wants out of the gang life. This of course makes Ty mad because as in all gangs, when you sign up, you sign up for life. And so, a war begins between the two of them.
Now see how simple that was to explain? If only that was what the movie stuck with. It doesn't.
The movie also seems to want to deal with the life of a stripper, particularly one named Jare (Elise Neal), who is one of Dayvon's many girlfriends. She manages to get caught in the crossfire between two D4L members who want the organization for themselves. Luckily that silliness is capped mid-way through the story.
Perhaps I missed where and how the beef actually began between Wood Harris' character and Page Kennedy's. I mean it's there, it must exist, but I think I got distracted by the many scenes of strippers dancing. Granted they were good scenes (in the BET UnCut sort of way), but they just didn't fit into the overall point of the story.
Eliminating the stripper scenes – hell, the whole stripper plot – would have been a better idea. I would have loved to know exactly how big the organization was, or even more importantly, the kind of person Dayvon was. Wood Harris gives depth to the typical urban gangster like he did in The Wire, but the performance can only showcase so much of what isn't there. It actually has to be written and filmed, too.
Page Kennedy's performance as Ty is alright when you're first introduced to his character in the prison meeting with Dayvon earlier in the film. But as soon as he gets up in his rage over Dayvon wanting out of the life, you see him turn into a raging tornando. Why? He wants to leave. I could understand if there was a more underlying reason, but there isn't.
They are dogs and therefore, dogs stay together. Nah, I need a better one than that for a reason to get upset over someone not wanting to play in my playhouse.
J.D. Williams (also from The Wire) gives a good performance as Pooh, a solider of D4L. I would have preferred him over Wood Harris in the lead role, because I don't think Harris has the chops to showcase being vulnerable like Williams can (especially if you have watched his last season on The Wire). In the future I believe we will see more range from him in better roles, if not better roles in other urban gangster pictures.
It's actually frightening that I remembered the song in the first stripper scenes of the film. Why? Because that exact same song is on Elise Neal's website ("I'm Down Baby" which is written by her, which is even scarier). At 41, I would have thought singing a club song would have been a bit beyond her.
Tichina Arnold has a better collection of songs that have yet to be released, but I'd rather hear them than this mess that I heard.
Okay, okay, what about the film? Ummm… it's a mess!
Avoid 4 Life at all costs. Now if you wanna see sexy ladies doing stripper dances, this movie is for you.