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Case Number 24169: Small Claims Court

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You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You

Lionsgate // 2012 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // July 20th, 2012

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker's got no beef with you, but there is a center cut pork chop he'd like to discuss.

The Charge

Filmed in BoogieVision.

The Case

Hip hop, don't you…AARRGGHH!!

Someone is killing the great rappers of New York!

No surprise to the detectives investigating the killings in You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You; after all, isn't someone always "beefin'" on somebody else, and aren't killings pretty much the best beef settlers?

But these don't seem to be beef killings; these murders seem to be the work of a serial killer. Soon-to-retire Detective Johnson (James McDaniel, NYPD Blue) and young, goofy, and rap-knowledgeable (and white) Detective Francelli (Michael Mosley, The Proposal) are on the case, but aside from some uninspired poems left at the death scenes, there aren't a lot of clues.

In the meantime, up-and-coming rapper Manchild (Nashawn Kearse, Desperate Housewives) is worried. If rappers are being slaughtered, then it stands to reason that an up-and-comer like himself must be high on the hit list. In fact, everyone—from the local DJ, to industry insiders, to the detectives—have Manchild pegged as an up-and-coming victim, to the point that the guy's hallucinating seeing a knife-wielding lunatic in a mask.

Or is he hallucinating?

The world of urban music seems like it would be a good place to set a slasher film. After all, there are a lot of young, attractive people in the music business, plenty of sex and glamour, lots of parties, rivalries—injecting a mysterious, murderous stranger into all that seems like a natural. Throw in a pair of black gloves, and you could have an urban giallo.

Unfortunately, the makers of You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You don't seem to have the slasher sensibility down; in fact, they don't really have any real kind of filmmaking sensibility down, offering up a half-baked mystery that meanders along, has minimal bloodletting, tons of padding, and a convoluted solution that makes much of what we've been watching seem beside the point.

Of course, it's comforting to know that street-tough, trash-talking rappers are no better at fending off knife-wielding maniacs than high school girls at summer camp.

For a film about rap, there's not a lot of rap actually represented, save for some generic background soundtrack. Much of the run time is padded with the young, hip, white detective explaining to the older, traditional, black detective about the rap world (everyone's got a criminal record, beefs are prevalent, and so on). Mosley's actually pretty entertaining as the doofus detective, who (surprise!) is smarter than he looks, but not much. Actual rappers are name dropped at the rate of about two a minute, and Doug E. Fresh and Big Daddy Kane appear as themselves.

The filmmakers seem to be trying to make some kind of statement about violence in the rap world, but it's done in such a clumsy way, it makes the old, message-heavy Afterschool Specials seem hauntingly subtle. A radio DJ talks about; random people on the street talk about it; the cops talk about it; rap writers and producers talk about; and the rappers just kind of act it out, with drive-by shootings and other bits of mayhem popping up here and there.

It's an almost-courageous commentary, except for one, small thing: You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You is a horror movie. We're here for the violence. We want to see people eviscerated; it's the point of the movie. All the talk is just that—talk, chit-chat, sloganeering, nothing meaningful or insightful. Maybe if that had been the focus of the film, it would have been a stronger, less disposal piece than the silliness on display here.

A pop up at the beginning of the film proudly announces that You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You is "Filmed in BoogieVision," which I guess is slang for low-budget video. The image isn't exactly crisp, looking a few notches below a TV show. Audio is an acceptable surround track, and there are no supplements.

The Verdict

You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You didn't do me any harm, but it only barely held my interest. Inept and generic, it doesn't really rate a watch.


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Horror
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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