2002, Movie, R, 113 mins


Though hardly Antonioni and entirely too long, this hip-hop driven reworking of BLOW-UP, written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Rich Murray, boasts spunk, imagination and a strong performance from Smallville's very talented Sam Jones III. Seventeen-year-old Erik Triggs (Jones) is what's known in the record business as a "sniper," a foot soldier in the industry's guerrilla marketing army, drafted to surreptitiously plaster promotional posters for upcoming releases all over the city. Erik works at Ill Wax, the hip-hop label owned and operated by the shady Bobby Starr (Dean Winters), and he's one of the most audacious snipers in Philadelphia; Erik even "sniped" the city's hallowed Museum of Art. He's also a huge fan of Ill Wax's rising star, Prolifik (Nelly), a former drug dealer who currently holds the number one slot on the rap chart with his single "Mind Games." But there are problems with the rapper's eagerly anticipated debut album, which Erik has been hyping all over town but Prolifik seems unable to finish, and Starr is beginning to feel the heat from local wiseguy Jonnie Marandino (Frank Vincent), who put up a cool million to fund the studio and is getting a little antsy about his investment. Hoping to swipe a little free studio time for his friend Malik (Mpho Kaoho), an aspiring rapper, Erik swipes the keys to the Ill Wax recording facility from Cheryl (Zoe Saldana), the label's marketing director. But once inside the studio, they're in for a nasty surprise: Not only has someone stolen the master tapes to Prolifik's album, they've snatched Prolifik himself, leaving two dead bodies in his place. The kids panic and run, but Malik leaves his bag behind; the next morning, a very pissed-off Starr pays Malik a visit and demands he hand over the tapes to what will surely be a massive hit record. Erik, meanwhile, realizes that he inadvertently captured the faces of the fleeing killers on his digital camera when he snapped a shot of Malik outside the studio. Knowing that it's only a matter of time before Starr tracks him down, Erik takes his camera to Cheryl for help in finding the killers and hopefully getting the tapes back. The whole snipes subculture is really more interesting than the standard wrong-man scenario that eventually takes precedence, and the longer the film runs — and it runs about 20 minutes too long — the more convoluted the plotting becomes. A little judicious editing would have helped a lot, but the talented cast matches the film's ambitions and compensates for its modest budget. leave a comment --Ken fox

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