Rock The Bells

2007, Movie, NR, 103 mins

Review

ROCK THE BELLS
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"Anything with Dirty makes me very nervous," says promoter Chang Weisberg early in Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan's rough-edged, fly-on-the-wall documentary about Chang's 2004 efforts to reunite the Wu-Tang Clan — who hadn't performed as a group in nearly 10 years — for a marathon hip-hop event called "Rock the Bells." And by the time the Clan finally takes the stage, deeply troubled crowd-pleaser Ol' Dirty Bastard has worked Chang's last nerve. It's not fair to say that the movie is all about trying to coax a cracked-up O.D.B. out of his hotel room, but Dirty and his posse — notably a pair of foulmouthed, belligerent buffoons called Buddha Monk and Sliksi, who delight in throwing around their considerable combined weight — supply the drama. Chang's eccentric mom has her moments — he puts her to work selling day-of-show tickets — but too much screen time is wasted on sets by the insufferable MC Eyedea and DJ Abilities, whose smug self-regard is in no way justified by their ear-splitting experiments in aural dissonance, and Sage Francis, whose "politically charged" onstage antics run to dropping his drawers and wrapping himself in the American flag. The increasingly restless audience at San Bernardino's NOS Events Center pelts him with trash. Meanwhile, Chang's producer deals with massive technical difficulties and a rowdy line of Clan fans gathers outside the gates. "What if they don't all get to see Wu-Tang?" Chang's assistant asks as the screaming, chanting crowd breaches the gate and pours in. "Then it will be a riot and I'll have to deal with it," replies Chang, displaying formidable grace under pressure. The crowd-control problem ultimately comes to nothing — claims that Suchan and Hennelly's film is a hip-hop GIMME SHELTER (1970) are way off the mark — and everything works out, even if Dirty (who died four months later) sits on a speaker while the rest of the Clan puts on a show. But it's a show we don't see, presumably because of issues with music rights, and while "much ado about nothing" might be overstating things, after more than an hour and a half of buildup, it would have been nice to see Wu-Tang perform. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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