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Tommy Brown and his friend Sincere are gangsters who have learned how to make a good living by dealing drugs and pulling armed robberies. Tommy and Sincere have been able to move out of the ghetto in Queens where they were raised and relocate to an upscale section of Manhattan; they would seem to have it made, but both realize that their lives are headed toward a dead end. Sincere begins getting in touch with his African roots and tries to convince his girlfriend Tionne that they should emigrate to the Motherland, while Tommy has a religious awakening and joins the Nation of Islam. Written by
I expected "Belly" to be a self-indulgent, expanded version of the gangster rap videos that gave Hype Williams the power in Hollywood to make a feature film. I was right, but what I didn't expect was for it to be so good. I was mesmerized by "Belly" from the opening sequence of choreographed violence and music. Critics of this film should look to its film roots - film noir - movies that grow from the underground crimeworlds in America, that pleasure us with their money schemes, guns, and drug use. "Belly" has this, and more style than I have seen in any movie in recent years. It has dazzling visuals, and a respectable plot that borrows from "Scarface" among others. The acting is respectable, and I didn't see the movie as a piece of media to exploit the careers of its stars, I found it to be a good piece of cinema that legitimizes Nas, DMX, Method Man, Taral Hicks, and Tionne Watkins as actors. The music is great, notably the D'Angelo's "Devil's Pie" that shows crime being played out. The cinematography is stylized and beautiful. The dancing in Jamaica, the shootout in the strip club in Omaha, the opening sequence, the climax with the reverend where the issues that the film may be exploiting are addressed and in my eyes therefore considerate. Its a shame this film was so overlooked by critics. I think within it lies the future of both the gangster movie and the musical.
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