Belly

by

comment

Besides this reviewer, there are five other people in the house the day Belly is released. The film's lack of exposure may account for that or, maybe, director Hype Williams' well-known association with music videos. "I'm not going to see another movie like that," says a film commentator. Another movie like what?

The guy in the back row takes a couple of phone calls: bedroom problems. The couple in the second row solve theirs. The two teenage boys cheer out loud at the highly stylized sex scenes, mostly for what they imagine must have happened between dissolves.

And, yes, the story is the same: drugs, guns, fear and violence; a major heist, a furious shoot-out and a "Message to the Black Man." But there is something stylish and vulnerable about Belly, something that reminds us of the implausible yet formidable premise of Suture, whose characters move through equally elegant worlds devoid of identity or expectation.

Belly's characters take their time at a moment when time is an expensive commodity owned by someone else. They seldom raise their voices. Their faces are composed, their arguments dry and economical. They move quietly inside a darkness which embraces them completely, until their fluorescent-white eyes are the only luminous points on the screen.

If Slam takes chances with its script, Belly experiments with its visual plot: fractured gestures regain composure in lengthy slow-motion scenes; noir designs are followed by crowded, noisy, sunlit streets; an impersonal camera -- watching, on a split screen, the unfolding of four events -- reveals, a moment later, the desperate view of an extreme close-up.

Perhaps Belly's vulnerability comes from its actors -- some known performers of the musical stage, some veterans of gangsta movies: DMX, Nas, Taral Hicks, T-Boz, Method Man, Power, Frank Vincent. Perhaps the film's moral -- that a black man who reads books is a saved man -- offers a simplistic solution to an escalating conflict. But there's definitely something to this "be cool, stay in school" approach to the black existentialist crisis, since both Slam and Belly fight violence with words and win.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.