Motives (2004) Movie Review

Shemar Moore is Emery Simms, a smooth talking businessman with all the right moves, charms, looks, and the type of body you only get if you’re a gym rat. He’s married to Vivica A. Fox (“Kill Bill”), whose occupation seems to be philanthropic in nature, although I can’t really be sure what the woman actually does. Alas, all that smoothness keeps getting Emery into trouble. Not only does the film “Motives” open with Emery killing a — we assume — shady business partner, but the guy quickly and willingly slips into an extramarital affair with a transient babe played by Golden Brooks.

Trouble continues to mount for our ladies man when the cops come calling, led to Emery because his phone number showed up on the dead guy’s cellphone. As played by Shemar Moore, there’s nothing very likeable about our hero, as being rich and handsome has made him a rather prickish fellow. He cheats on his wife, doesn’t seem especially perturbed after committing murder, and eagerly dips his pen in the inkwell of Golden Brooks. That is, Golden Brooks the actress, not the, er — nevermind. In any case, since “Motives” seems confused about what it’s supposed to be about, the murder investigation gets relegated to filler duty while Emery spends the first hour shacking up with the Golden Miss and her warm Brooks.

“Motives” is directed by Craig Ross and produced by one Rob Hardy, who was responsible for another black-centric movie called “Trois” and its sequel, “Trois 2: Pandora’s Box”. (I’ll leave it up to you to figure out who Pandora is and what that “box” of hers refers to.) Hardy and company makes products that are predominantly geared towards the black market (since, one presumes, they are also black). Not the Urban Black Market, mind you, those are the territories of cheapie “ghetto gangster” movies starring those interchangeable rappers with names misspelled on purpose. The audiences for Hardy’s movies essentially want a black version of all those cheesy, predictable, and wholly generic B-movies that populate cable TV and video store shelves across this great land of ours.

Suffice it to say, just because the names under a movie’s credits all belong to black people doesn’t change the fact that “Motives”, like “Trois” and its sequel, are nothing you haven’t seen before. Except, you know, there are a lot more black people up front, with white folk sent to the back of the bus. And really, that’s the only difference between a movie like “Motives” and, say, one of thousands of erotic thrillers starring Shannon Tweed that got released in the ’90s. Different skin tone, but same generic and predictable movie.

Aside from the African-centric nature of “Motives”, the movie’s other drawing power might be its promise of sex. Unfortunately like “Trois 2”, while Hardy and company seems to introduce plenty of sex into the equation (and even a m’nage a trois for old time’s sake, apparently), much of the bodily friction between leads Shemar Moore and Golden Brooks are performed while clothed. The only actual nudity that I could detect comes from a female friend of the Allannah character, who joins the couple for a late night romp in the sack. And for those who got their hopes up when they saw Vivica A. Fox’s name in association with a movie labeled “erotic thriller” — sorry, boys, but the aging Miss Fox (and showing every bit of it) shows some bobbing cleavage, but not much else.

If it sounds as if I’m beating up “Motives” for the sake of beating it up, that’s not the intention. Although the film is so run-of-the-mill and so lacking in originality as to be insulting, there are some good things to justify a 2-star rating. One is Craig Ross, who is a capable director. Most of “Motives” looks good, especially since the budget couldn’t have been that high. And the clothed sessions between Moore and Brooks, while unrealistic, are nevertheless rather stimulating. It’s too bad the only gratuitous nudity came from a throwaway character. Don’t you just hate it when you take an erotic thriller to dinner and a movie and it refuses to put out?

As an aside, Keshia Knight Pulliam of “Cosby Show” fame is all grown up now. She shows up for a minute-long cameo in “Motives” as a college student who has had it with an inconsiderate roommate. Although, I’m not sure if Cliff would approve of Rudy appearing in a movie of such dubious narrative.

Craig Ross Jr. (director) / Kelsey Scott (screenplay)
CAST: Vivica A. Fox …. Constance Simms
Shemar Moore …. Emery Simms
Golden Brooks …. Allannah James
Sean Blakemore …. Brandon
Joe Torry …. Derrick Woods

Buy Motives on DVD