Rock the Bells

"Extraordinary"

Rock the Bells Review


Urgent and unrelenting in ways that no concert film has been since the Maysle brothers took on Altamont in Gimme Shelter, Denis Hennelly and Casey Suchan's Rock the Bells takes you into the fire pit of concert promoter Chang Weisberg's absurdly ambitious attempt to reunite the immortal Wu-Tang Clan for his "Rock the Bells" concert in San Bernardino, California in 2004. Without a moment to wipe the sweat off your forehead, Hennelly and Suchan follow Weisberg's team, Guerilla Union, and the nine members of the groundbreaking collective as the festival, poorly planned and executed with all the brainpower of a mildly-intelligent earthworm, goes completely to hell before everyone's eyes.

Weisberg, with his right-and-left-hand team of Carla Garcia and Brian Valdez, begins the doc with a fan's excitement and a nerd's intensity. Along with talking heads of Wu members, Weisberg is front-and-center; making phone calls and promises to artists, getting the OK from police officers and his parents, taking ticket orders, and basking in the possibility of his California fantasia. The preparation, at first looking adequate, quickly seems absurdly feeble to the mass of fans that flood the gates and ticket booths.

The stadium oversells and Weisberg quickly becomes short of hands to count and collect the dead presidents (yes, that's his mom collecting and protecting baby son's dough). As this is happening, other members of the Guerilla Union are trying to get the opening acts together and keep them as happy as possible. Redman bluntly addresses his needs: "How you 'spect me to do an interview if you don't send no herb?" All the while, college hip-hop mainstays Eyedea & Abilities and Sage Francis are attempting to warm-up the crowd. Did I mention both acts are white as frozen milk? The fans are not having either of these acts and, boy, do they make it known.

Hennelly and Suchan wisely use the fly-on-the-wall method, allowing the action and events to speak for themselves with small interwoven interviews peppering the damage. The scant amount of security Weisberg hires can't do anything to repress the raging fans inside, spilling out into the backstage area. And still, there's the challenge of getting the Wu to perform. Surprisingly, eight of the members and sometimes-member Cappadonna show up without any problems. The actual problem should be obvious: Ol' Dirty Bastard.

As the opening bands start running out of energy, Wu spokesman RZA has to plead and bribe ODB to come to the venue, as the notorious member is holed up in a hotel room strung out on crack. It's an enthralling, ludicrous race-to-the-finish to see if the group will actually perform, egos flaring and money being drained from Weisberg as if he were the National Reserve. No doubt, the Wu wasn't fibbing when they spelled out that cash rules everything around them, and by extension, the hip-hop community. Perhaps a concert featuring more commercial, "intellectual" rappers like Common, Kanye West, or Lupe Fiasco would have been easier, but nothing as legendary as a Wu-Tang reunion show, ten years in the making, could be easy. As GZA once said: "It really doesn't matter on how you intrigue, you can't fuck with those in the major league."



Rock the Bells

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Wednesday 11th April 2007

Distributed by: Open Road Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Denis Hennelly, Casey Suchan

Producer: Kurt Dalton, Denis Hennelly, Casey Suchan, Henry Lowenfels

Starring: as Himself, Inspectah Deck as Himself, Ol' Dirty Bastard as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, Masta Killa as Himself, as Himself, U-God as Himself, Eyedea as Himself, D.J. Abilities as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself

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