September 18, 2000 12:00 PM

Pras, Ja Rule, Vondie Curtis Hall

In an interview, Pras, a founding member of the Fugees who plays the sullen hero of this feeble gangsta drama, has wishfully compared his first major movie to Prince’s Purple Rain (1984). Both films are about ambitious, talented musicians who have troubled relationships with their fathers. But Pras’s character, a would-be rapper named Diamond, moonlights as muscle for a drug dealer and, during the course of Turn It Up, cavalierly shoots dead a half-dozen rival hoods. Not only does crime pay for Diamond, but he never pays for his crimes.

While I’m not arguing that every film must have a moral and show justice being served, it would make sense that Diamond might be grilled by a cop about at least one of these killings. But that would add a dose of reality to a film that has Diamond sauntering about in a silky designer jacket, driving a hulking SUV and living solo in a vast, expensively furnished New York City loft apartment at the very same time that he is supposedly too strapped for cash to make the demo tape that might kickstart his recording career. (R) Bottom Line: Deserves a bad rap

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