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Stars: Andr? Benjamin, Paula Patton, Terrence Howard, Antwan A Patton, Ving Rhames

Director: Bryan Barber

Somewhere between The Cotton Club and Cabaret's Kit Kat Club is The Church, a 1935 clip joint south of Illinois. Here the hedonistic Rooster (Antwan A Patton) escapes from his wife and four daughters by 'talk-singing' (early rapping) with the chorus girls and assisting corpulent club manager Ace (Faizon Love) in his dealings with the boss, Spats (Rhames).

Spats has yearnings to retire and hand over to Ace (who plans to cheat him). But Spats' 'boy' Trumpy (Howard) has other ideas and shoots them both.

Caught in the middle are Percival (Benjamin), part-time mortuary assistant and the club's piano player, and Angel (Paula Patton), who, masquerading as a famous singing star from Chicago - shades of Calamity Jane - is paralysed with fright once on stage.

Though off the beaten track, the film has serious pace problems, and it's only in the last few minutes that this shambolic exercise seems to make up its mind that it really has been a musical all along, with two lavish production numbers featuring Benjamin (alias Andre 3000 from the band Outkast), who turns out to be both the film's narrator and its principal character.

Acting is pretty standard, apart from the talented Howard, who deserves roles more three-dimensional than this one.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: UIP (Universal). Colour by De Luxe.
121 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 10 Oct 2006