review by Bobby Blakey
Director Hype Williams has cemented his legacy as a music video director working with the biggest names in the industry including Busta Ryhmes, Will Smith, Wu-Tang Clan, The Notorious B.I.G., and so many more. In 1998 he took on his one and only feature Belly starring Nas, the late DMX, Taral Hicks, T-Boz of TLC, and Method Man. Now Lionsgate is bringing the film home on 4K.
Belly follows gang leader Tommy who looks to expand his turf by dealing a new form of heroin, but his friend Sincere dreams of escaping the gangster life with his girlfriend and baby daughter. After a drug house operated by Tommy is raided, he and Sincere — now pursued by both the police and rival gangs — each find themselves on a course that will either lead to redemption or ruin.
I remember seeing this film when it came out, but have not revisited it since. I am a hardcore hip-hop head and love films focusing on the gang and mafia lifestyle so with this film infusing both I was all in. I admit that this film isn’t for everyone and in the realm of this genre is pretty generic as a whole, but I still dig it for what it is.
The story is simple and just like any of these movies you have seen before. The performances are all hit and miss with most of the main cast all rappers in their early attempts at the craft. They are all actually pretty good and do well with their respective roles. The dynamic between Sincere played by Nas and Tommy played by the late DMX is the movie. Their different paths set the tone and keep it moving well,
Where this movie stands out is the visuals. At times it is way too dark, but the 4K restoration did help some of that. On the other hand there are some cool varying light colors used along with some black light shots that have people glowing or framed in unique and inventive ways giving it almost a psychedelic vibe.
The film has a lot of build-up and violence, but essentially has and ending that felt abrupt and uneventful. With everything that happens throughout you expect a bloodbath ending, but instead you get more of a whimper. Despite this shortcoming I still dig the film and takes on an even more heartfelt tone with the loss of DMX.
Grab your copy of Belly on 4K for the first time ever now from Lionsgate.