Fourteen years after the first “Barbershop” movie the recession has caught up to Calvin Palmer, Jr. (Ice Cube). Due to changing times the barbershop he took over from his father has been forced to amalgamate with a beauty salon run by his business partner, Angie (Regina Hall). “This was the original man cave,” complains one regular, “now it’s just a club with no drinks.”
The customers are divided by sex, men on one side, women on the other, but there’s plenty of back-and-forth, especially between flirty beautician Draya (Nicki Minaj) and the very married Rashad (Common).
Outside the atmosphere isn’t as playful. Out of necessity they have a No Guns Allowed sign in the shop. “Can’t even get a haircut without some knucklehead carrying a gun,” says Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer). “Barbershop used to be a place of peace.” Gang violence is at an all time high, putting Calvin’s teenage son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) at risk. With the neighbourhood in tatters and his son in danger Calvin contemplates moving his shop and family out of the only home they’ve ever known, South Side Chicago. “What are we supposed to do,” Calvin asks his wife, “wait here until something happens?” Before taking that dramatic step the staff stages an intervention, calling for a forty-eight hour ceasefire. Setting up the shop as a safe, neutral space for everyone from all over the city to come and hash out their differences and get a free haircut, they hope to “Increase the Peace.”
“Barbershop: The Next Cut” breathes the same air as “Chi-Raq,” Spike Lee’s recent satirical look at gang violence in Chicago. Director Malcolm D. Lee does away with the stylish flourishes that made his cousin Spike’s movie so memorable, but doesn’t skimp on the social commentary. Wedged between sometimes sharp, sometimes silly one-liners are keenly observed remarks on everything from racism and street violence to monogamy and the importance of community building. The presentations are different—call this “Chi-Raq Lite” if you like—but the pleas for peace are the same.
Working from a thoughtful although occasionally unsubtle script, the large ensemble cast has the chance to provide laughs and heart. Cedric, former Conan O’Brien writer Deon Cole and JB Smooth are in charge of the chuckles, while Cube and Common’s family storylines provide the sentiment. Other standouts include rappers-turned-actors Minaj and Eve.
The humour in “Barbershop: The Next Cut” is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. What could have been a heavy-handed treatise on urban violence is instead an enjoyable romp that shines a light on a very important topic.