I may in fact be the least qualified writer to review this movie because it is
set in the world of hip-hop and I know little to nothing about hip hop -- I know
the names of rappers like Jay-Z and I am fully aware that the majority of the
world loves them 'phat ass beats' but I'm just too stuck in my Stooges and Ennio
Morricone records to really know my Fifty-Cent from The Game.
But if you are into some of that booty shakin', titties all drenched and shit
kind of music, then Death of a Dynasty is worth checking out, because as a movie
it basically works. I am not much of a fan of the "mockumentary" genre, but the
plot of this one does set up an intereresting twist, and the more ridiculous
elements are pretty entertaining.
(Though I found the Eyes Wide Shut bit at the start kind of cheesy while I was
watching the movie, it actually does make some sense at the end of the movie.
It's still a cheesy sequence, but it does kick off one of the themes of the
movie, about deception and the loss of trust.)
Again, I'm not much of a historian of this stuff, but you pretty much get it at
the start of the movie that Jay-Z and Damon Dash, the head of Roc-a-Fella
records are homies, and each respects the role the other bro played in that
man's success. Seemingly nothing can tear them apart -- It's up to an intrepid
young reporter named Dave Katz (Ebon Moss Bachrach) to find out whether or not
Enter one Femme Fatale, played by Devon Aoki (most recently in Sin City as the
gal with the throwing stars and permanently petulant expression) named Picasso.
Faster than you can say Othello there's suspicion and betrayal afoot, Picasso
might have caught Damon's eye, but she seems to have caught just as many parts
of Jay-Z's body as well. And like any good operatic tale, the romantic triangle
comes to an end when a weapon is pulled out. But the movie is like a ginsu
knife commercial, because once you get this far along you get ... so much more
than just one carving knife but a full set of steak knives as well. There's more to
this game than meets the eye.
Damon Dash is also the director of this movie, but he thankfully doesn't play
himself in the film. Any personality playing themselves in a movie is like a
man acting as his own attorney. Although Jay-Z does appear very briefly in the
movie, he's also played by someone else. This movie could easily have been self
indulgent, but by casting others as themselves, they deflect a little of that
heat away from the rest of the movie.
The film is presented widescreen, and the cinematography by Dave Daniels is clear, if
a little flat and uninspired in some places. The soundtrack, which is full of
music, is well mixed with two kinds of stereo options for your home viewing
pleasure. Chris Fiore's editing keeps a snappy time to the beats of the
It's a pretty good movie, but it didn't inspire me to scrounge up some CD's by
the artists both shown off and ridiculed in equal measure by the movie, so I
can't say it was entirely successful. There are 7 minutes of behind the scenes
footage that is nothing special and a theatrical trailer.