Picks and Pans Review: Fear of a Black Hat

updated 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Rusty Cundieff, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Larry B. Scott

A mockumentary about a gangsta' rap group, Fear of a Black Hat owes a big tip of its chapeau noir to 1984's This Is Spinal Tap, which focused on a fictitious heavy metal band. That said, a tip of the hat to director-writer-star Cundieff for making a film that has both wit and bite.

Fear follows the fortunes of N.W.H. (Niggaz with Hats), a band whose members are named DJ Tone Def, Ice Cold and Tasty-Taste. In tagging along with the rappers, the movie touches on such topics as political posturing (N.W.H.'s name derives from the group's theory that field slaves were too tired to rebel because they had no hats to protect them from the scorching sun. "So, what we're saying is, 'Yo, we got hats now," explains one band member). It also, in its way, addresses the issue of violence (all five of the band's managers have been killed by gunfire) and pokes fun at uncool white record executives ("You guys are so fresh chill," one tells the band).

The targets may be expected, but Cundieff has still managed to work some amusing variations, particularly in his parodies of music videos. At a zippy 83 minutes, the movie is over well before he runs out of material. (R)

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