Picks and Pans Review: What's Love Got to Do with It

updated 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne

Before singing her hit version of "Proud Mary," Tina Turner used to promise her audience she would do the song "nice and rough," because she newer did anything "nice and easy." Including living her life. As revealed in I, Tina, her 1986 autobiography cowritten with Kurt Loder, and now in this bruising biopic, she spent nearly 20 years letting husband and musical partner Ike Turner boss her and bash her around before finally dumping him and triumphing as a solo artist.

Directed by Brian Gibson, What's Love Got to Do with It is an appealingly pulpy, easy-to-root-for film, but not a particularly innovative one. It sticks with a straightforward chronological narrative and spends more time getting its period costumes and musical sequences right than digging deep for psychological nuance. Although the early scenes, particularly a hilarious opening one showing a pipsqueak Tina rocking her church choir, have texture and individuality, the movie's second half is a repetitive tape loop of Ike (Fishburne), megalomaniacal and often stoned, whacking on Tina (Bassett), and her, masochistically coming back for more.

Bassett is sensational as Tina, offering a carefully shaded performance rather than just imitating the singer's famous stmt and shimmy. (She lip-synchs to Tina's own vocals.) The always impressive Fishburne, saddled with the less sympathetic role of Ike, strains hard to convey the deep-seated insecurity" beneath his character's cruelty but gets little help from the thin script. Also worth noting: the deft supporting; performances by Joniler Lewis as Tina's mom. Phyllis Yvonne Stickney as Tina's sister and Vanessa Bell Calloway as the Ikette who finally persuades Tina to ditch Ike.

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