The Sound and the Grand Jury


The mega-club dance music scene is tough to mockumentarize. The excesses of Ibiza bacchanals have been highly self-parodic right from the jump-off. And those fans and DJs who take their trancey transcendence quite seriously may be beyond the reach of satire. But neither that nor the fact that the scene is well past its late-’90s heyday ever dampens Canadian Michael Dowse’s exuberant desire to poke belated fun. In his festival crowd-pleaser, what’s all gone Pete Tong (i.e., “wrong” in rhyme slang) is the career of DJ Frankie Wilde, a super-stoned deity of the Pacha decks. As embodied by the charismatic Brit Paul Kaye, known for his long-running role as TV’s cheeky celebrity interviewer Dennis Pennis, Wilde is a gold-toothed, projectile-puking party machine touting his flip-flop collection when he’s not sailing triumphantly over the heads of adoring clubbers in a crown of thorns.

If Dowse’s parade of deadpan talking heads—still-faceless megastars like Paul Van Dyk and Lol Hammond—seems kind of stale, his deft dancefloor swoops manage to capture the ravey thrill that eluded “electronica” cash-ins like Groove. It’s all giggles until Wilde goes deaf. Then the tone changes completely. Though Kaye’s performance doesn’t, er, miss a beat, the director concentrates his efforts on bringing us along into Wilde’s new silence. Lots of Dowse’s ideas work well—the ringing tinnitus, the conversion of sound to visible waves, the trimming of treble and bass for underwatery effect, the removal of ambient noise entirely. But as the humor flags, It’s All Gone Pete Tong starts to feel more like an exercise. Also, since Wilde has mainly been a cartoon thus far, it’s strange when his 24-hour party morphs into a sweet little tale about lip-reading and Photoshop beat-matching.

Stateside, Damon Dash’s A Hard Day’s Night for the thug set, State Property 2, continues to ensure that hip-hop’s story is sold, not told. For this second extended Roc-a-Fella records commercial, Beans (the currently incarcerated Beanie Sigel) reprises his role as a Philly drug boss feuding with local rival Dame (Dash, natch). Improving on the first movie, Death of a Dynasty screenwriter Adam Moreno supplies a plot, and even a twist involving a mysterious fixer named Pollo Loco (the low-key Noreaga). Of course, the whole thing’s just an excuse for Dash to trot out his vodka and his lineup—Beans’s incessant voice-over provides a scan of leaders of major metro area crews: Harlem’s Diplomats, Brooklyn’s M.O.P., Chicago’s Kanye West, London’s SAS.

When this flick is honest about its pimping, it has that Rat Pack charm. But attempts at real ruggish posturing—like that de rigueur sideways-gatted, full-body-exposure firing stance—are just plain laughable. Take the flashback showing Beans as a little neighborhood roughneck: After some sidewalk beat-downs, he and his pals try to steal weed from a small-time dealer who catches them breaking in. When callous little Beans wastes him, clocking his first body, grown-up Beans’s commentary cuts in with the hilarious observation, “I didn’t choose the game. The game chose me.” Despite his devil scowl and real-life attempted-murder trial, Sigel makes a rather frumpy don of South Philly. As in Fade to Black, when he stole the show from centerpiece Jay-Z, Philly rapper Freeway proves that even as a laconic Muslim cellmate he has more on-screen juice than Sigel.

You gotta wonder why, given the sharp drug-biz writing on The Wire, Dash doesn’t smarten things up. He was a producer on 2002’s much more nuanced Paid in Full (featuring notable performances by both Cam’ron and Wood Harris, later of Wire fame). And even if these State Property toss-offs are just consumer primers for tag-popping teens—Ocean’s Thirteen with titty-bar frosting—nobody here gets off a shot as good as Frankie Wilde’s screaming in-studio exhortation, “Bang those drums like yah bang yah sistah!” With snaps like that, who needs guns anyway?