B.I.G. Deal

A filmmaker tries to solve two notorious hip-hop killings.

Biggie & Tupac Cleveland Cinematheque (see Film Repertory for times)

After trying to dump Kurt Cobain's suicide at the feet of Courtney Love, an utterly insane and useless endeavor, director Nick Broomfield, once more playing dumb to get his subjects to damn themselves, "solves" the murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. Or does he? Hardly seems like it, in the wake of The Los Angeles Times' revelations concerning Pac's killing in Las Vegas in September 1996.

Broomfield's Biggie & Tupac, which documents how so great a friendship crumbled into tabloid tragedy, pins the rapper's shooting on Death Row Records kingpin Marion "Suge" Knight, Shakur's driver that night; according to Broomfield, Pac was owed some $10 mil by Death Row and was this close to leaving the label and calling for an audit. Knight put an end to that real quick. Wallace, gunned down outside an L.A. car museum in March 1997, was likewise killed by Suge's henchmen, says Broomfield.

The Times' Chuck Phillips, a Pulitzer winner and the rare music journalist to actually resemble an aging rock star, says no, the shooting was actually done by Orlando Anderson, a Southside Crip pissed at Pac for kicking his ass in a Vegas hotel a few hours earlier who was doing Wallace's bidding for a million bucks. Only Anderson can't corroborate the story: He's dead in an "unrelated" shooting. Of course, everyone denies everything: Wallace's family insists Biggie wasn't in Vegas that night, but in the studio; Knight's camp says Suge had nothing to do with nothing, so there.

Either way, or no way at all, the rap world's equivalent of the East Coast-West Coast Kennedy assassination gets the familiar sweep of a Broomfield tragedy: Playing the befuddled foreigner, he stumbles through the seedy world of bad cops (Death Row had some 40 L.A. cops on its payroll; no wonder the cases remain unsolved) and the women who screw them and finds, at the bottom of this cesspool, a gaggle of likely suspects. Watch it and wonder if they all didn't have something to do with something.

Broomfield's guides through this music-biz mine field are former LAPD officer Russell Poole and Voletta Wallace, Biggie's mother; they see through his ditzy pose -- that of the guy who's smart enough to know who to see, yet dumb enough to forget what to ask -- and demand he get his shit together. Wallace, especially, doesn't have time for Broomfield's nonsense, so she nudges him along, with a swift kick to his pale behind. She's using the filmmaker, and he's only too happy to be handled: She wants someone to solve the crime, and without her, Broomfield would likewise have ended up with what we already know from a handful of books on the subject.

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