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Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // August 12, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 14, 2008 | E-mail the Author
"Come on with the bullshit, man. You think another motherfucker know what you need to do? Ain't no purpose, dawg. It's money. We born to fuckin' die, man. In the meantime, get money. Fuck a book, man."
Wait, wait...scratch that. Aside from the, uh, call to fuck books, that sounds halfway serious, so pretend I kicked off the review with this instead:

"Yo, I heard that motherfucker was out there running his motherfuckin' mouth and shit."
"Matter of fact, I heard that nigga was trying to act like he wanted to stick Sincere or some shit."
Or, ummm...
"Yo, this shit is mad hard, yo. I can't take this school shit no more."
"Word. Niggas be wild in there and shit."
"I'm ready to say fuck that shit and get money with y'all niggas."
"Knowledge. He was a for real grimy nigga. I never really trusted him. He the type of nigga that's too smart for his own good. A shysty ass nigga."
"Pussy here make your dick hard like Rottweiler."
Look, I could keep going, but you get the idea. If I jotted down every line in Belly that made me laugh and/or cringe, then I'd pretty much be stuck transcribing the entire screenplay, and that's no good for anyone.

From what I could make out about the plot, Tommy (DMX) and Sincere (Nas) are drug-slingers who know they're gonna get shot dead at some point, so they're just trying to rack up as much cash as they can in the meantime. They've done all they really can in New York, so they set out to expand their trade. Tommy tries to get
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in good with a Jamaican drug lord, the rest of the crew takes over the dope trade in Omaha (?), and...I dunno, Sincere finds God or something and wants to move his family to Africa. So, yeah. Lots of people get shot. There's a really awful homage to the finale of Scarface. Turns out the whole thing is a cry to treat black women with respect and get kids to stop glorifying drugs, money, and guns. Whatever.

Belly is music video vet Hype Williams' first stab at trying to make an actual movie, and...look, whatever stereotypes and cliches spring to mind about a music video director diving into his first feature film, this is a helluva lot worse. It's not a case of style over substance because...well, Belly doesn't bother with either of 'em. There's not a single spark of creativity. It's a movie with an insincere, horrifically clumsy moral message -- literally delivered in a sermon -- after an hour and a half straight of smoking weed, jiggling boobs, and shootouts. I lost track of who half the characters mentioned in the awkward voiceovers are. The story sets up a hyperaddictive form of heroin that's so powerful that users can get high just by touching it, but it never actually makes it into the movie. I mean, this is a flick that decides...oh, what the hell, I'll throw in a cacklingly nefarious scheme by The Man to infiltrate a religious group and gun down a minister in its last twenty minutes.

Writer/director/producer Hype Williams tries to cover up the stilted acting and God-awful dialogue with lots of quick-cutting and fish-eye lenses, but...ugh, Belly is just flat-out unwatchable. The only thing Belly really has going for it is that it's borderline-surreal, with forced male stripping, one bad guy who's introduced walking out of a convenience store munching on a banana, a way-too-long stretch of Gummo splashed across an oversized TV with a couple of shirtless redneck kids faux-shooting a pal in a bunny costume ("This shitty ass rabbit stinks! He smells like...pussy!"), DMX grunting-slash-humming in the shower, a goofy, rapid-fire sex montage, shootouts in a strip club and a ritzy four-star restaurant, a masked Jamaican strike force, DMX in a dreadlocked wig pretending to be a homeless window washer... It's just a horrible, horrible, horrible movie, ripping Scarface and Scorsese off wholesale, railing in its last few minutes against the same sex and violence it'd done nothing but glorify
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up to that point, and...I seriously can't stomach the thought of writing about Belly anymore. That's it. End of review. Skip It.

Video: This is Belly's tenth anniversary, and the smart money says that this awful high definition transfer dates back to '98 or so too. The 1.78:1, AVC-encoded image is extremely soft, and although I guess the heavy film grain is meant to echo the gritty look of Martin Scorsese's early work, even the grain is smeared and poorly defined. All of the shots under low light are muddy and murky, the transfer is marred by speckling that's infrequent but more pronounced than usual, and its colors are dull and lifeless. There are brief stretches of Belly that are much crisper and more detailed than I'd be able to get out of a DVD, but there's really not a single moment in this Blu-ray disc that wowed me. This dated master feels like microwaved leftovers rather than a shiny new high-def disc.

Audio: Lionsgate has given Belly the lossless treatment with this 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but honestly, I think I'd have had a tough time distinguishing this from a regular DVD. It's not a bad mix by any stretch, but it all sounds pretty ordinary. This isn't all that aggressive a soundtrack, not backed by the devastating waves of bass or heavy surround use I'd have expected from this sort of flick. Bass is punchy but doesn't dominate the mix, the rear channels are only really used to reinforce the music and belt out some light ambiance outside of the big action sequences, and the dialogue stays reasonably clean and clear throughout. 'Sokay.

There aren't any dubs, but this Blu-ray disc does toss on subtitles in English and Spanish. If you're bored, try flipping the subs on whenever Ox is on-screen; his Jamaican accent is so impenetrable that whoever was punching in the subtitles frequently just gives up.

Extras: The
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extras are pretty much the same as the old Artisan DVD. There's a music video, of course: "Grand Finale", featuring a bunch of the big stack of rappers in the flick. "Welcome to the Tunnel" is labeled a deleted scene, but it's nothing but a camera slowly whirling around a couple of blurred-out strippers. Its backing track -- "The Tunnel Mood" -- can be played against the scene in Dolby Digital 5.1 or plain-jane stereo, and there are also two different mixes of the song with no visual accompaniment. One of the strangest extras I've ever seen is "Spoken Word", a 40 minute collection of different actors belting out hyperdramatic spoken word recitations of scenes from Belly. Last up is a kind of unenthusiastic commentary track with Hype Williams. I kept zoning in and out during the track, which...I guess that's the review right there...but he chats about his influences, what the vulgarity and violence were meant to convey, how the project started and transformed from its earliest drafts... It's nothing that really screams out for a listen.

The only high-def extras are plugs for a few other Lionsgate Blu-ray discs.

Conclusion: I guess this Blu-ray disc of Belly is meant to ring in the movie's tenth anniversary and to help plug the direct-to-video sequel (which, for whatever reason, isn't hitting high-def), but this is a pretty lousy release of a really terrible movie. Skip It.
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