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Lions Gate presents
Rhapsody (2000)

"I have chosen to give back to the young what life has taken from me."
- Roughneck (Glenn Plummer)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: April 03, 2003

Stars: Glenn Plummer, Fred Williamson, Rio, Mikki Val
Other Stars: Tete Philips, Ice-T, Tone Loc, MC Hammer, Dion DeRizzo, Freda Payne
Director: Don Abernathy

MPAA Rating: R for (contains violence, language, and nudity)
Run Time: 01h:35m:38s
Release Date: November 19, 2001
UPC: 031398814924
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
D DDD D-

DVD Review

The year is 1986. Hip-hop is taking off, and young Roughneck has decided that he's done with the drug trade and wants to work in the music industry. Unfortunately, his buddy Jelly hopes to keep the deals moving, and he sells Roughneck out to an undercover cop (oddly played by M.C. Hammer). Following this completely unconvincing prelude, he is captured and sent to jail for 16 years. Now an adult and paroled from prison, Roughneck (Glenn Plummer) must face his past demons and some especially bad acting to make up for his young transgressions.

Rhapsody starts by presenting a positive message about helping others and overcoming previous troubles. Somewhere in the mix, this heartful message is lost within double-crosses and violent confrontations. These problems are much worse because few events even come close to being understandable. The first issue is some terrible line readings of even worse dialogue, which should have faced several strict rewrites. The environment depicted follows the usual tired cliches and can't even stick to the dull formula. The story never reallly makes sense and shifts into lengthy musical interludes to stretch the basic tale into a feature film.

The central plot (I use the term loosely) focuses on the rising hip-hop career of Roughneck's brother Tyrone (Rio), a rapper with mediocre skills, which makes his possible success more understandable given today's music industry. Both the opening credits and a later scene spotlight his track about "doing his thing," with extreme closeups of undulating female dancers. While Roughneck tries to help his brother and keep him out of trouble, his overbearing uncle Jake (Fred Williamson) treats him like a criminal, which makes little sense. Meanwhile, his mother (Freda Payne) was once an aspiring singer, and one quick song in the studio causes her to perform again. Also making brief appearances are Ice-T as a conniving record executive and Tone-Loc as Jelly's cousin, a gangster who sits by the pool near topless ladies.

While viewing Rhapsody, I spent considerable time wondering if my annoyance could be explained by its extremely low budget. Shot on digital video, this feature utilizes choppy editing, sloppy acting, and unconvincing action scenes. Unfortunately, the small budget does not excuse writer/director Don Abernathy from leaving too many unanswered questions. It becomes nearly impossible to connect with any characters, which makes one individual's final sacrifice less interesting. Maybe cutting a few characters and focusing more on Roughneck would have improved the story. Judging by the final result, it definitely couldn't hurt.

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Rhapsody utilizes an extremely grainy full-frame transfer that appears worse than some network television visuals. Obviously shot and distributed by Lion's Gate on a shoestring budget, this film offers zero interesting visuals. There seems to be virtually no attempt at any form of digitally remastering on this disc. No major glitches arise that make the production unwatchable, which helps it to avoid a failing grade.

Image Transfer Grade: D

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: This is hands-down one of the worst audio transfers I've ever discovered on DVD. The dialogue is generally very quiet and often drowned out by extensive background noise. This defect requires a high volume for viewing, which becomes frustrating when the music takes over. I imagine that the flaws appeared on the initial transfer, but that does not excuse this poor presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: D

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: After narrowly avoiding a failing grade with the audio transfer, this release once again almost reaches the abyss. No chapter cues, subtitles, or anything else of value appears on the disc. In fact, there's really no need for the main menu, which simply allows you to start the film. You can skip through scenes, but there is no way to access them without some tedious work with the remote. Lion's Gate definitely didn't put much work in to this release.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Several years ago, I harshly criticized an early film from a young director and was nastily rebuked via e-mail by him and an actor for failing to recognize the time they spent on the production. That film was also a low-budget independent feature, and like Rhapsody, it suffered from considerable screenplay issues. I realize that this picture is probably dear to the heart of its creators, but it just didn't work for me. The story offers plenty of avenues for exploration, but instead it wavers towards dull, less interesting material.

 


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