High-concept cinema this ain’t: As any mo-ron could tell ya, a product selling out some large-ass stadiums is one begging for a post-performance second take. Mo’ money mo’ problems? Run that one by Hollywood folk and see what kinda response you get. Show ’em a massive consortium of platinum-tongued hip-hop stars, and you might just snag yourself a chance to represent on the silver screen. Thus Backstage: Produced by Rock-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash with aid from the Weinsteins, Chris Fiore’s chronicle of 1999’s Hard Knock Life Tour (concocted by Dash; featuring Jay-Z, DMX, and others) hasn’t a nun’s chance in hell of masking its intentions. Thankfully—the odd preachy interlude aside—it doesn’t bother trying, and at its best Backstage plays as an amiably profane fish-outta-water romp.
While we’re treated to the usual groupie groping and tour-bus bitching, the sight of DMX calmly restraining his baying pit bull from shredding a posh hotel lobby beats all manner of rock star histrionics. Marveling at their staggering success while exploiting its perks, the tour’s wayward personnel cut capers as sharp as anything in gangsta mockumentaries CB4 and Fear of a Black Hat. Boom operators are tormented, snooty camerawomen schooled, and the antics of Method Man and Redman (double-vision analogues of Marlon Wayans’s blunted Scary Movie joker) include calling a time-out for the purpose of “hearing what [their] nuts are saying,” then snorting with disbelief when the film crew dutifully lends an ear.
Likewise, footage of their dangling-from-the-rafters set neatly hyperbolizes the degree to which these cats are walking on sunshine—or at least on brilliantly hyped bravado. That they frequently don’t seem to give a shit is what propels Backstage, even if keepin’ it real is really part ‘n’ parcel of the mega-MC game. As Beanie Sigel quips when told how ill he is, “I ain’t that sick—I got a cold.”
If all-out headache-nausea-braindeath is what you crave, Whipped‘s available. Charming as a seven-year-old who drops trou at recess to show off his doodle, the main attraction (er, whatever) of Peter Cohen’s take on “the New York dating scene” is its pathetic dedication to, tee-hee, DIRTY WORDS, though most of ’em are yesterday’s toss-offs. Bachelor-pad euphemism “stabbin’ cabin” is one exception, a tidy summary of the film’s vile attitude toward women (not to mention H*O*M*O*S). Meant to skewer would-be playas, Whipped never bothers to explain why one liberated chick (Amanda Peet) might teach three such dipshits a lesson by following them around Manhattan and fucking them all senseless. ‘Course, maybe I’m just bein’ a fag—cause everybody knows girls suck even more than guys do. Huh huh, “suck”—get it?