The Slick Crime Drama Franchise Now Dominating Streaming Decades Later

By Charlene Badasie | Published


The 1998 crime drama Belly and its sequel Belly 2 are streaming on Starz. The film is written and directed by Hype Williams from a story by Nasir Jones and Anthony Bodden. It features rappers Nas and DMX, along with Taral Hicks, Method Man, and R&B vocalist T-Boz.

Additionally, an uncredited cameo is made by Jamaican reggae and dancehall artist Sean Paul.

Belly and Belly 2 are streaming now on STARZ

Belly follows the lives of Tommy Bundy (DMX) and Sincere (Nas), two childhood friends who have become involved in the criminal underworld of New York City. Bundy and Sincere are involved in drug dealing, violence, and other criminal activities. However, Sincere starts to grow weary of the dangerous lifestyle and wants to escape it, while Bundy becomes deeply immersed in the criminal world.

As their illegal activities escalate, they become embroiled in a violent gang war, which threatens their lives and those of their loved ones. Belly explores the contrasting paths of Bundy and Sincere, which leads to a rift in their friendship.

Belly (1998)

Belly was a modest box office success, earning approximately $9.6 million on a budget of $3 million. A significant portion of the budget was allocated to its opening scene, shot at the former Tunnel nightclub in New York City. Costume designer June Ambrose remembered that Hype Williams wanted to create a visually striking aesthetic that would foreshadow the hip-hop genre in the new millennium.

Critical reception for Belly was relatively poor. The film was praised for its visually striking cinematography, stylish direction by Hype Williams, and its portrayal of the urban hip-hop culture.

However, it received criticism for its somewhat convoluted plot and uneven pacing. Viewers appreciated the film’s artistic elements, while others found it confusing and criticized it for glorifying crime.

Belly’s soundtrack was highly acclaimed and featured tracks from artists like DMX, Nas, Jay-Z, and others, contributing to its popularity in the hip-hop community. The film’s title is a reference to the slang term for a person’s stomach, which is often associated with hunger and desire for success, themes that are explored in the movie.

Belly (1998)

While Belly received mixed reviews, it has gained a cult following over the years. It is often cited as a visually influential and unique piece of filmmaking within the hip-hop and urban cinema subgenre. A direct-to-video sequel, Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club, was released in 2008. The film is directed by Ivan Frank from a script by H. Hunter Hall and Shakim Compere.

While it sought to continue the story established in the original film, Belly 2 received considerably less attention. The story follows Sincere, who shares the same name as Nas’s character from the first film but is portrayed by The Game). Sincere is a young drug dealer striving to leave the criminal lifestyle behind and secure a better future for his daughter.

However, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous world of crime and deception, making it difficult for him to escape his past. Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and viewers. It was criticized for its low production values, weak plot, and lack of the visual style that made the original movie stand out.

Belly (1998)

Belly 2 also had a considerably lower budget than the original crime drama and lacked the involvement of key figures such as director Hype Williams and the original cast members Nas and DMX. Along with The Game taking on the role of Sincere, the film featured a different cast from its predecessor. This included Shari Headley as Sheri, Michael K. Williams as Tone, Ed O’Ross as Mr. Colton, and Clifton Powell as Laci.

It also featured Ameer Baraka as Bilal, Darris Love as Ricky, and Bukky Wright as Jada. Fans of the original were critical of the decision to create a sequel with different actors and creative talent. The film’s title, Millionaire Boyz Club, suggests a thematic connection to the pursuit of wealth and success.

Belly and its sequel, Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club, serve as a cautionary tale about the challenges of escaping a life of crime and the dangers that can arise when trying to leave such a lifestyle behind. Both films, which have become popular over time despite initial criticisms, are available to stream on Starz.