If you're a fan of the Fox-TV sitcom "Martin," you may be in seventh heaven with Martin Lawrence's directorial debut, "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate," which he also co-wrote, co-produced and stars in.
But after a start that disguises the film as a comedy about womanizers who get their comeuppance, the film turns into a more serious and more seriously flawed rip-off of "Fatal Attraction." (Lawrence even has the nerve to allow his screen character to use the phrase, "fatal attraction," to describe his dilemma.)
Lawrence casts himself as Darnell Wright, an egotistical, self-absorbed male chauvinist pig of the first order. To say he has a roving eye is like saying Hearst Castle is big.
In the first scene, Darnell is shown falling out of a window into a pool, where he lays motionless in the water, apparently dead, as he tells us the story of his predicament, which we see in an extended flashback. (For those who don't know, this little moment is taken directly from the opening of Billy Wilder's classic film, "Sunset Boulevard.")
Then, under the opening credits, Darnell chronicles the several relationships he is balancing, as he visits each woman one by one. Later we see that he has a pact with his best friend (hip-hop singer Bobby Brown) to never say "I love you" to a woman, so she won't become possessive.
But when Darnell spots a rich realtor named Brandi (Lynn Whit-field) and finds that she won't succumb to his charms, he goes out of his way to pursue her. And when she finally agrees to have sex only if he will say those three little words Darnell breaks his own rule and tells Brandi he loves her.
He's lying, of course, so she goes nuts and turns into Glenn Close she leaves him a cake with a huge knife in it, beats herself up and claims he abused her and throws a brick through his windshield. Meanwhile, Darnell discovers he really loves his old girlfriend Mia (Regina King), who has been away in the Air Force.
Needless to say, this makes the already unstable Brandi downright lethal.
Vacillating uncomfortably between comedy and melodrama, "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate" never settles on what it wants to be, and Lawrence the director should have pulled the reigns in on Lawrence the star, as his constant mugging is both out of character and ridiculously exaggerated.
Although, perhaps his fans will settle for a vanity piece instead of a movie.
"The Thin Line Between Love and Hate" is rated R for constant foul language, as well as some violence, sex and nudity.