American Cinema International

Not since Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs has there been a cinematic interrogation scene as hilarious as the one that runs periodically through "Cover," the inept crime thriller/morality tale directed by Bill Duke. While this actor-filmmaker has delivered such worthy films as "A Rage in Harlem" and "Deep Cover" in the past, this misbegotten effort would be instantly forgettable if not for its potential as future camp classic.

Said interrogation is of Valerie (Aunjanue Ellis), a housewife and part-time photographer who's being questioned on murder charges by an ambitious district attorney (Clifton Davis) and a seen-it-all detective (Louis Gossett Jr.). A series of flashbacks reveal the backstory, with Valerie and her psychiatrist husband, Dutch (Raz Adoti), falling into marital trouble after they relocate from Atlanta to Philadelphia.

The MacGuffin of the plot has to do with black men living life on the "down low," a sociological trend which is explored here with all the subtlety of "Reefer Madness." Suffice it to say that if another man offers to remove the dust from your eye, you can bet it only means one thing.

The overly complicated story line also involves such laughably drawn characters as Dutch's too-intense buddy (Roger Guenveur Smith) and his wife (Paula Jai Parker); Valerie's best friend (Vivica A. Fox), suspicious of men ever since she caught her husband cheating; and a charismatic rap star (Leon) who makes it a point of trying to screw everyone in sight.

"Cover" somehow manages to live up to its name by covering all the negative bases: ugly, video-shot photography; over-the-top performances; laughably inane dialogue; and stilted direction. Add to that the numerous unintentionally funny scenes depicting the meetings of a church-sponsored women's support group (including Patti LaBelle as the mother of a gay son) and the risible homophobia on display, and you have a perfect storm of movie badness.