Recently there was an incident in a Los Angeles drug manufacturing den that has been talked of in whispers around the city. Seems the place was invaded by the notorious Allentown Brothers, a pair of hitmen who may or may not be real depending on who you talk to, who proceeded to shoot every person in the place, the sole survivor being the pet kitten of the man in charge. But what happened to the animal? He has actually made it across town to a middle class neighbourhood and adopted by Rell (Jordan Peele), who previous to the cat's arrival was wallowing in misery since his girlfriend left him. His best friend is Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), who heads over to cheer him up only to discover the kitten, named Keanu, has already done it...
But for how long? Key and Peele had built up a strong fanbase for their television sketch comedy, so the natural move was to take that combination to the big screen, as was the case with many double acts who had enjoyed success that way. However, Keanu did not receive the warm welcome their televisual endeavours had, and they had to content themselves not with a crossover hit to the mainstream but more of a niche cult effort. Those who did like this liked it a lot, but not everyone who had appreciated the sketch show were acclaiming the movie, and the general opinion was that they had created a hit and miss series of sketchlike scenes rather than a proper motion picture experience.
All that said, not every comedy has to hit every mark of what is agreed upon as the requisite beats for a larger production than you would catch on the box, and there were parts of this that were very funny indeed, chiefly their skewering of macho attitudes that would be de rigueur in the gangsta milieu but when you examined them or at least held them up to a different light appeared to be more trouble than they were worth. It must be really difficult to keep up the tough façade of the violent, drug dealing lifestyle, according to this film, when what you actually wanted to do was play with a cute kitten or listen to the solo work of George Michael. That latter pop culture figure was featured surprisingly prominently.
This being released in the year of his untimely demise made Keanu a curious, unintended tribute as the singer became a running joke in that everyone wanted to listen to him rather than any rap more befitting a cool persona, and Clarence even got to show up in the video for the hit single Faith, an instance of the better applied sense of humour. On the other hand, as with many of the bigger laughs here, they were spaced rather too far apart, so while you would be enjoying the jokes of, say, the ridiculousness of swearing to make yourself sound like a hard man, there was rather too much of that gag getting repeated in different variations over the rest of the running time, as if they recognised how strong it was but were reluctant to allow it to give way for another, equally effective routine.
It's not as if they were finding inspiration running dry, it was more like they were keeping their powder dry on their best material only to find the movie was over and they had not used enough of it as they should, or could, have done. Key and Peele were certainly amusing performers, and that premise of the essentially cowardly characters bluffing their way through a dangerous set of circumstances was a well-worn one, though not so overused that it would not be a neat fit for this pair. When Keanu the cat is kidnapped in an apparent robbery at Rell's place, our heroes head over to drug dealing neighbour Will Forte's house opposite to see if he knows anything; somehow this leads them to posing as the Allentown Brothers and making their own deal with gang boss Method Man who has the kitten, and agrees to give it back if they sell his new brand of crack for him. Cue a cameo from Anna Faris (funny, but undercut by the twist at the end) and a certain Mr Reeves sort of showing up, plus a lot of gunplay. The good parts were enough to have you encouraging the duo to do better, as they certainly had that potential in them; they were also generous enough to supply solid turns for their supporting cast. Music by Steve Jablonsky and Nathan Whitehead.