Belly (Special Edition DVD & Audio CD)
Artisan // R // $26.98 // January 20, 2004
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted February 1, 2004
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Graphical Version
The Movie

Theatrical Release Date: November 4, 1998

Run Time: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Belly is the story about Tommy (DMX) and his childhood friend Sincere (Nas). Tommy and Sincere grew up together in the project in Queens, New York. The two grew up to become very different individuals, while at the same time running along the same paths. They work together in crime, but while Tommy is power/money hungry, Sincere just wants to make a better life for his family. The two are undoubtedly different in their lives, but their paths seem to be headed the same direction.

This feature opens in February 1999 with Tommy, Sincere, and the rest of their small crew heisting a club, taking all the cash. As the movie goes on Sincere is ready to give up his evil ways and focus on his family, because that's what he really cares about. So as Sincere is ready to break away from his life of crime with Tommy, Tommy sets down the trump card. The two have been long time friends and Tommy needs him. At this point they further their endeavors into drug trafficking from Jamaica. Life is pretty good for Tommy and Sincere, as they have power and all the money they need. However nothing lasts forever.

As things are going really well with the duo's crime, they anger a fellow crime lord who makes a phone call to a certain division of law enforcement. One of Tommy's crew gets arrested and with the police now after Tommy, he high tails it out leaving behind his girlfriend Kisha (Taral Hicks), Sincere, and everyone else. But he takes along with him two young teenagers who have aspirations parallel to Tommy. With Tommy on the run and Sincere stuck with the mess, what will happen?


Spoken Languages: English

Non-Spoken Languages: Spanish

The video is presented in anamorphic 1:85 ratio widescreen color. The picture is fairly decent as there are slightly noticeable color defects and the picture is pretty grainy. However these issues with the picture quality do not interfere with the viewing of the feature. The real issue with the picture is that the entire movie is really dark, but this was purposely done to enhance the dark mood of the feature.

The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS surround sound, along with both English 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound and English 2.0 Dolby Digital surround sound. The sound is quite good, but it is difficult to hear all dialogue. Some actors talk too softly or with a touch of slang that makes understanding what is said slightly difficult. There is also a director's commentary audio track, during which there are no discrepancies to note.

The subtitles are presented in the Spanish language so I can't really comment on them.

Audio CD: Features an eight track audio CD with selected tracks from the feature's soundtrack
Track 1 Ja Rule "Story to Tell"
Track 2 DMX with Sean Paul and Mr. Vegas "Top Shooter"
Track 3 Jay-Z with Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek "Crew Love"
Track 4 Hot Totti "Two Sides"
Track 5 Noreaga with Maze "Sometimes"
Track 6 Made Men with The L.O.X. "Tommy's Theme"
Track 7 Wu-Tang Clan with RZA and Ghostface Killah "Windpipe"
Track 8 Braveheart "I Wanna Live"

Music Video: DMX with Method Man, Nas, and Ja Rule "Grand Finale"

Spoken Word: Features ten different poems/acts that relate to a quote within the feature that is associated with Pride, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Lust, Redemption, Beat Box, and Tap Dance

Other Extras: Trailers, a single Deleted Scene

Final Thoughts:
I found the movie to be fairly dark and bleak, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Take Fight Club (1999) [review] for instance. It's an insanely dark and depressing feature, but it's also really good. However Belly in this case is a dark, bleak, and not-so-good film. This feature was the debut of hip-hop music video director Hype Williams into mainstream features. So there were what a lot of people both compliant and complain about, is an excessive amount of "music video like" effects. Some have said that the entire feature is like one long music video and others feel it adds to the body of the feature. I think that Williams over did it slightly, but overall it wasn't the killer of this feature.

While there was plenty of action in the film that kept my attention, I had a really difficult time following the plot of the movie. While a lot of bad movies suffer from an overly hollow plot, Belly seemed to have an extremely cryptic plot, which never is a good thing. Though towards the end the movie makes a little more sense and the directory's commentary helped a great deal.

In the end I'm slightly tempted to rate this as a rental, but after some thought the overly violent nature of this film and the cryptic storyline make it for a bad choice. This film bombed in the theaters as the general public didn't care much for it. So for you people who didn't like the movie when it first was released, I'm assuming you won't like it a second time around. Those who haven't seen it, there are many better flims out there in this gangster genre like Menace II Society, Hoodlum, and Boyz 'N the Hood.

However there is a fan base out there that does love this movie. Well I'll say this to you, if you own the barebones original release, in comparison to this "special edition" there isn't a huge improvement. If you own the soundtrack, then you own all eight songs found on this edition's bonus audio CD. The deleted scene isn't much at all, 3 minutes of watching two girls dance on stage with the crowd going wild. Some might be interested in the Spoken Words extra feature, but I myself didn't find it entertaining. So for the fans, owners of the original release, it may not be that of an idea to pick this up, as it's not much of an improvement over the barebones release.

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