More than ten years since the last film in the likeable ‘Barbershop’ franchise, Ice Cube is back as Chicago salon owner Calvin. ‘The Next Cut’ is a comedy – but sometimes it feels like an afterschool special, especially with its timely social commentary on the escalating murder rate plaguing Chicago’s South Side.
Cube gives his most substantial performance since ‘Boyz n the Hood’, delivering stand-up-and-cheer monologues – best of all in an argument with Calvin’s wayward teenage son, championing the virtues of being smart and carefully choosing your friends. The lure of gang violence is one of the film’s concerns, seen in a story strand involving the salon giving free haircuts during a weekend ceasefire. Another, less serious, lesson here is avoiding the temptations of co-workers (like a much-ogled Nicki Minaj).
Director Malcolm D Lee offers echoes of his cousin Spike Lee’s movies. And it’s refreshing to watch a sequel that leans deeper into sociopolitical realities. Still, the movie’s tone wobbles between sincerity, sitcom-style naughtiness and stand-up gags, courtesy of Cedric the Entertainer. It all feels a touch schematic, trying to satisfy every audience type, when really each haircut should be different.