In 1997, rap superstars Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, The Notorious B.I.G.) were gunned down in separate incidents, the apparent victims of hip hop's infamous east-west rivalry. Nick Broomfield's film introduces Russell Poole, an ex-cop with damning evidence that suggests the LAPD deliberately fumbled the case to conceal connections between the police, LA gangs and Death Row Records, the label run by feared rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight.Written by
Russell Poole - LAPD Detective:
I almost took my life, but it was my kids that actually saved me. Okay? And, uh... it hurt. I was betrayed by my own department, because of the core values that the Los Angeles police department preached from day one. Honesty. Integrity, okay? Tell the truth, swear to tell the truth; nothing but the truth - so help you God. Do a good job, do a thorough job, work for the community. I believed in the oath of office. I believed in protect and serving the people. I really did, but on the inside and...
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Anyone expecting a tawdry,shoddy sleazefest along the lines of "Kurt and Courtney" should be pleasantly surprised here- this is an excellent film.
For a start, the conspiracy theory explored here is a far more credible one, and the evidence Broomfield turns up is very convincing in places. One has to wonder how genuine Broomfield's "camera on at all times" approach is, how much was created at the editing stage- he appears to get away with some very transgressive behaviour here on the basis of sheer amateurism, though it is clear the man has balls of iron. he thoughtlessly wanders through some of the worst neighbourhoods in LA and New York- in one classic scene his cameraman deserts him out of sheer fear, leaving him to manage a ludicrous prison interview with despotic Death Row records overlord Suge Knight alone. Irony being lost on Americans for the most part, Broomfield also manages to get away with some outrageous cheek- for instance asking Knight to deliver his "message for the kids" in a tone of smirking condescension.
For the heads, there is some great, rare footage on offer- a teenage Biggie ripping up a street corner freestyle battle, hoods dancing on their cars at his funeral, an electrifying Snoop Dog calling out New York at the notorious 95 source awards....plenty in there for the hip hop fan, along with some vintage Biggie and (for some reason) Gang Starr on the soundtrack. Broomfield manages to talk to every major player in the drama, with the notable exception of Afeni Shakur- which also explains the lack of 2Pacs' music on the soundtrack.
Despite its grim subject matter, there is much humour on offer here. In short, this is the best "rockumentary" in a very long time, and one that lingers in the mind for some time afterwards.
Something of a triumph.
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