Owen Gleiberman
November 20, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

Belly (Movie - 1998)

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
DMX, Nas
genre
Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a D

The bad acting — make that nonacting — of rappers DMX and Nas merges, all too well, with the shallow dehumanized vision of director Hype Williams. A music-video veteran, Williams knows how to make each frame smolder and glow like something out of a gangsta Flashdance, but he can barely stage a coherent scene. We’re meant to pick up on the contrast between the drug-dealing antiheroes — icy, brutal Tommy (DMX), a strapping hooligan stud, and Sincere (Nas), who’s milder, with a young family. But the imperious affect of both performers flattens the contrast. As the duo attempt to launch a megabuck drug operation in Omaha, Williams skimps on the nuts and bolts of business deals, rivalries, and so forth, but his camera fetishizes everything it touches, from the techno-sleek interiors to his stars’ dog-or-be-dogged attitude. That’s what’s finally so off-putting about Belly‘s violence: not the blood (which is shown sparingly), but the celebration of stone coldness as an end unto itself. D

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