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Belly Reviews

The medium overwhelms the message, but music video director Hype Williams' feature debut still has far more on its mind than it first lets on. Tommy (Earl Simmons, aka DMX) and Sincere (Nasir Jones, aka Nas), friends since childhood, are at a crossroads. Tommy's ambitions run to bigger and more profitable variations on what they've been doing since they were teens: robbing, hustling, drugging and sexing around. Sin and his wife Tionne (Tionne Watkins) have a new baby, and he's starting to get into the Reverend Saviour (Minister Benjamin F. Muhammed) and his message of self-improvement and spiritual enlightenment through education. That doesn't stop Sin from joining Tommy in his scheme to apply their New York City smarts to the lucrative Midwestern market with an assist from Jamaican-born drug kingpin Lennox (Louie Rankin). But he has doubts, and as the Omaha business gets bloodier and more explosive, Sin starts thinking about taking his family to find their roots in Africa while trying to put as much distance as he can between himself and Tommy. Tommy, meanwhile, gets tight with the ruthless Lennox, and when the business in Omaha blows up in his face, he goes on the run, abandoning some very angry friends and business partners. No question, there's a lot of by-the-books 'hood stuff going on, all underscored by Sin's intrusive voice-over and served up in the flashiest possible way: multiple screen imagery, wild lighting, slow motion, distorted angles -- you name it, Williams does it. But the story takes a surprising turn for the millennial as Tommy is recruited by the FBI (or someone) to assassinate Reverend Savior at a New Year's Eve 1999 rally, and it comes to a surprisingly uplifting conclusion without compromising its prodigious attitude.