Sex, money, music, and mayhem. The Players Club has everything that we loved about the 90s.
The movie is set in a small, unnamed southern town. It is the story of Diana “Diamond” Armstrong, played by LisaRaye McCoy in her major film debut. Diamond is a dancer who opens the film reminiscing on her time at the now burned-down, Players Club.
We quickly learn that Diana, a teen mother working at a shoe store, is planning to go to college. Her mean ass daddy has cut her off financially, and instead of incurring student loan debt, she turns to the pole.
This is our first indication that things are going to go downhill. In a town where the only promising job prospects are shoe store clerk and stripper, nothing but bad sh*t could come out of this story.
Diamond works at the club for four years when her 18-year-old cousin, Ebony (Monica Calhoun), moves to town. Young and impressionable, Ebony makes mistakes at every turn. Including accepting the mentorship of Diamond’s rival: Ronnie.
There has never been a Black female antagonist like Ronnie (Chrystale Wilson). At best, she was greedy, narcissistic, and manipulative. At worst, Ronnie was also guilty of sexually assaulting Diamond and creating the circumstances for Ebony to be raped as well. While she was an awful person, as a character Ronnie was memorable and mean. A fight scene between her and Diamond at the end of the movie remains a classic.
The Players Club is 22 years old, and like most Black, urban movies set in the 90s, it has a loyal following in our community. The sexual assaults and misogyny highlight the seediest side of strip club life, and in 1998, the film was stigmatized. The film offers some redeeming moments like Diamond’s successful graduation from Southern Tech, and her new relationship with Blue-the club’s ambitious good guy DJ played by Jamie Foxx.
Even Ebony is redeemed after her assault. She gets a job at the shoe store and has seemed to learn from her awful experiences.
In his directorial debut, Ice Cube wrote a movie that highlighted Black images that we had never seen before and, for the first time, it put women in a leading role in a hood movie.
The film opened on April 8, 1998 and debuted at number five with $5.8 million in ticket sales. At the time of the opening, Al Shapiro, then-president of distribution at New Line Cinema, said that it was Ice Cube’s popularity as a rapper and actor that made the film a draw.
“His fans know him and they’re the ones coming out to see it,” Shapiro said. “Cube has a distinct style and it makes the picture really interesting.”
People might have to come to the movie 22 years ago for Ice Cube, but they come back all these years later for characters like Diamond, Ronnie, and Bernie Mac’s Dolla Bill.
The enigmatic motley crew delivers memorable lines like, “Make the money, don’t let it make you,” and, “It’s gon be trouble… trouble.” The quotables add a lot of humor to what, in some ways, is a very intense drama.
Fans of movies from the 90s are irrationally nostalgic. Can you blame us? People love to reflect on the memories of their youth. At a time where we are dealing with a reality that is hard to cope with, The Players Club offers a great getaway to a fun and familiar past.
Memories aside, The Players Club is not a great movie. The acting is average and the writing is a little forced, but it is a classic that deserves celebration as it makes its debut on streaming services.
It might just be the best bad movie that we all need right now.