With his untimely death this past summer, it's fitting to say that Bernie Mac save his best performance for last, and he, along with Samuel L. Jackson make Malcolm D. Lee's comedy film, 'Soul Men', a memorable and enjoyable film. Not only does it features Mac in his final lead role, but the film also has Isaac Hayes in his final performance, although brief, as both actors died just a day apart from each other.
With the chemistry between Mac and Jackson on point, the supporting cast of Sharon Leal, Sean Hayes, Affion Crockett, Jackie Long and Adam Herschman, and the music in the film, 'Soul Men' is more than your average buddy-road trip film.
Louis and Floyd were a popular singing duo back in the day until their group lead singer Marcus Hooks (John Legend) decided to go solo and left them in the lurch. With no success on their own, they went their separate ways and stopped speaking to each other. When Hooks dies over 20 years later, a music manager (Sean Hayes) decides to cash in on his fame by throwing a televised tribute at the famed Apollo Theater in New York City. Floyd is gung ho to get back in the game and easily accepts the invitation, but his only problem is convincing Louis to join him
Unlike Floyd, who invested his money wisely and became financially successful in the real estate business, Louis went the other way; gambling all of it away and doing some time in prison for petty crimes. When Floyd reaches out to him now that he's out, Lloyd doesn't waste time before releasing some punches on Floyd and then refusing the invitation to hook up again.
Once Floyd mentions that there's a lot of money being thrown at them to do the one night event, Louis reluctantly agrees to go but on one condition. He won't fly on a plane, so they must travel from California to New York by car. Along the way they bicker left and right and also end up bringing along the daughter (Leal) of a woman they both dated. The longer they spend time together, secrets come out and mayhem ensues as they get closer to New York.
While the buddy plot or even the road trip angle is nothing original, as we have seen this in plenty of films such as 'Grumpy Old Men', 'Bandits', or 'Midnight Run' to name a few, what is different is the dialogue and tone of the film. Lee, who directed 'Undercover Brother' and most recently 'Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins', is great at letting actors, especially comedians, go off-script and do some ad-libbing in the film. If you ever saw Bernie Mac perform on stage or on his TV show, then you will see that he brought that same level of rawness to the film.
While Jackson comes in with the same no nonsense attitude he brings to most of his films, we do get to see a tender side of him that's rare. Plus, to see these guys sing at all is a hoot. The soundtrack should be a collector's item with tracks coming from John Legend, Isaac Hayes, Sharon Leal, Ryan Shaw, Anthony Hamilton, and Jackson himself. Some folks may find it a little disturbing to hear so many foul languages in the film, but it adds to the characters' background from the time period there are from. Overall, 'Soul Men' is not only a tribute to Mac and Hayes, but the film is also funny, often outrageously crude, and pleasurable.