Elvis did it. So did Frank and Madonna. Singers aren't often the best actors, but their public, and sometimes their egos demand it. Rappers may have the strongest call to the big screen. Perhaps it's the same inner force that compels them to long for Bentleys, speedboats and vintage Miss Pac-Man games. CineSchlocker fave Ice-T makes movies as often as he changes his high-dollar drawers. Ice Cube is no slouch either and has young upstarts like Ja Rule and Pras anxious to follow suit. Are they in it for the loot? The bragging rights? That's anybody's guess. But Snoop Dogg just wants to be Freddy Krueger. That's ultimately the genesis of Bones (2001, 97 minutes). In it, rap's favorite son, The Doggfather, a towering, lanky dude whose stage experience dates back to church pageants as a youngster, cuts a ferocious silhouette as horror's latest and most promising boogeyman. A vengeful spirit sworn to righteously and brutally right them who done him and his wrong, wrong, wrong.
The movie: In the '70s, Jimmy Bones (Mr. Dogg) is the beloved sultan of his squeaky-clean urban kingdom. He's driven down its streets, where he occasionally stops to slip candy buyin' cash into hands of adoring children, or to tenderly squeeze luscious melons at a street-side grocery with his beautiful Pearl (Pam Grier). All seems as though this burgeoning utopia is destine for increasingly brighter tomorrows. That is until the Big "C" rolls into town. Jimmy'll run numbers, move a little grass, but he flatly rejects a heavy-handed business proposal to allow CRACK to be sold on his corners. As a result, like Julius Caesar before him, Jimbo is brutally murdered at the hands of those he'd trusted most, even loved. Unlike that Roman fella, however, these folks make Bones take a BIG OL' HIT off a crack pipe before pumping his chest full of lead and taking turns jabbing a switchblade into his gut until his crack-addled spirit wafts, more like, wobbles into the afterlife. Years later, as his body lies rotting in a shallow basement grave, the scourge of drugs has reduced Jimbo's once proud community into a hopelessly grim ghetto. Things manage to get WORSE for the big guy, though, when some hip-hopping kids wander in from the burbs with the idea of turning his haunt into one supremely "OFF THE HOOK!" dance club. That's about the time Bonesy starts slashing hiney. First his jet-black hell hound indulges its hankering for human and before long Jimbo himself blasts out of his grave amid a wall of flame that permanently poops everyone's party. Then he's off to pay rather unpleasant nocturnal visits on those sorry dogs who kilt him and poisoned his peeps with crack. But as in life, Jimmy always makes time for some sweet lovin' with his special lady.
CineSchlockers will love seeing Ms. Grier reprise her Queen of Blaxploitation look during the flashback sequences, but it's a role that also depends on her emotional strengths as an actress, over her prowess with a sawed-off scatter gun. Khalil Kain plays the young entrepreneur who setup shop where he shouldn't have. Some may have seen him as Tiger Woods in the Showtime biopic. Ginger Snaps sensation Katherine Isabelle is ALMOST convincing in her tinted shades and do-rag.
Notables: Two breasts. 12 corpses. Gratuitous Vincent Price reference. Seance footage. Projectile maggot puking. Maggot rain. Maggot eating. Wise-cracking severed head. Gospel singing. Writhing wall of tortured souls. Seriously dislocated jaw. Gratuitous fast-mo AND slow-mo. Badass devil dog.
Quotables: Brutus, er, Jeremiah has no desire for reparations, "Personally, I don't need a mule. I got myself a Lexus." Jimbo turns down a stake in the sale of hard drugs in his neighborhood, "That's beautiful, baby. Totally widescreen sci-fi forward thinking and I can dig that. But that's for you and yours. Me and mines? We cool as a mother f@#$ing icicle in the freezer." Then politely, but firmly dismisses his would be partners, "It's never business, it's always pleasure." After his untimely death, children could be heard singing, "This is the story of Jimmy Bones / Black as night and hard as stone / Gold-plated deuce like the King of Siam / Got a switchblade loose and a diamond on his hand / They took his life, he never rested in peace / Now his vengeance will be unleashed."
Time codes: Something ain't right in this crib (6:00). An ode to Bob Keen's juicy re-animation sequence in Hellraiser (39:50). Where this whole misfortunate series of events began (52:00). Bones instructs smart-mouthed pushers on the power of his supernatural high (1:09:34).
Audio/Video: Widescreen (2.35:1) transfer holds up valiantly considering the overall dark look of the picture. There's a bit of sketchiness during some of the FX shots and inherent grain resulting from intentional lab manipulation. Audiophiles can take their pick from Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS ES 6.1 and plain ol' stereo surround. No matter the choice, the sound design is plenty aggressive while not letting dialogue or those phat tunes suffer.
Extras: Juuuuuuust right. Well-conceived bonus materials that are WORTH fans' time. Foremost is the commentary by Snoop, director Ernest Dickerson and screenwriter Adam Simon that doesn't shy away from pointing out how focus groups and market-obsessed studio suits can hijack the creative process. That's mostly from Ernest and Adam, but when sly Snoop does chime in it's usually gold. Whether he's mooning over Ms. Grier, or when he cringes at watching himself get whacked. Stick around until the tail-end of the credits for Snoop's personal advice to you the viewer. Two documentaries. "Digging Up Bones" covers the typical "making of" bases without the B.S. factor (24 mins). Slightly more intriguing is "Urban Gothic," which explores Dickerson's love of Italian horror and how his flick pays homage to the likes of Mario Brava and Dario Argento (19 mins). It's certain to have fans of the genre talking, possibly ranting. Fourteen deleted or extended scenes with optional commentary by Dickerson (25 mins). This is stuff CineSchlocker's will actually want to check out, including a protracted look at Shotgun's chilling death, Ms. Isabelle playing shadow puppets in the tub and more toasty scenes between our grave-crossed lovers. Two versions of the "Dogg Named Snoop" music video. Theatrical trailer. Cast and crew bios. Extensive production notes. Motion-video menus with audio.
Final thought: A heroic killer crackhead!? Brilliant!!! Snoop's wry, ultra-laid-back style is an inspired fit. Bring on the sequels! Highly Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.