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BIGGIE & TUPAC

Suspect Documentary

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The 108-minute documentary Biggie & Tupac is either one giant joke played on Brit filmmaker Nick Broomfield or a collection of the most compelling evidence to date to unravel the unsolved assassinations of Tupac Shakur and Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. It's difficult to determine which because some of the people Broomfield interviews don't appear invested in these grave matters, let alone sober, while other moments are quite revelatory.

It doesn't do the film justice that Broomfield utilizes this porno format where he approaches subjects, supposedly unsuspecting, and automatically they're spilling info. It's obvious pre-arrangements were made, but Broomfield makes it seem like he can perambulate through housing projects and achieve instant cooperation.

Second, was it scripted that everyone interviewed grin, cheese, giggle or break out in laughter before speaking? Are they laughing at Broomfield or with him? Even those close to the dead start off in over-jovial moods. We're only talking about the unsolved murders of two of hip hop's most revered figures.

Then there's the superfluous interviews. Halfway through the movie we meet Sonia Flores, who is probed at length about the details of her sexual relationships with both David Mack and Raphael Perez -- rogue cops whom the film implicates in the murders. At one point Flores is directed by Broomfield to "talk about the orgies," even after admitting she knew nothing of the rappers and didn't even like rap music.

But here's why Biggie & Tupac should be taken seriously. Broomfield proceeds from a belief that the killings of these two rap stars, who together had amassed tens of millions of devoted fans, were possibly an extension of the FBI's COINTELPRO program that instigated internecine feuds among the Black Panthers in the '70s. Broomfield produces photos taken by the FBI on the nights of both rappers' murders (Shakur's in 1996, Biggie's in 1997) which make it likely that they were present when the hits were made ... yet did nothing.

Broomfield also speaks at great length with ex-LAPD detective Russell Poole, who uncovered evidence linking the murders to the FBI, LAPD cops, and Suge Knight (CEO of Tha Row Records, Shakur's label, formerly known as Death Row Records) -- enough evidence to have Poole taken off the case.

Bloomfield's narrative is a jerky ride, and information is left unexplored. For example, when Tupac was first shot two years before his murder, he implicated Biggie and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Broomfield mentions this but doesn't fully explain why Tupac made these accusations. But in a 1994 VIBE magazine interview, Shakur said why he thought the accused parties were involved: At the time of that shooting, Shakur was on his way to a studio session, but when he made his way to the room where Biggie and Combs were, even after being shot five times, Shakur says the two responded blandly upon seeing him in his bloody and damaged state.

But perhaps the VIBE article -- along with the other hip-hop periodicals XXL and The Source, both of which did thorough investigations of the murders -- wasn't seen as a credible enough source. These are hip-hop journals, after all, not to be taken as seriously as Chuck Phillips, who did a widely disputed story on Biggie's and Tupac's murders in the L.A. Times, in which his only credible sources were gang members -- none of whom would mention their names or their affiliations with said victims and suspects. Yet Phillips was a contributor to the movie.

Biggie & Tupac puts names and faces to its sources, which earns it respect if nothing else. Still, it remains to be seen if all of these characters take these tragedies seriously enough to call them the assassinations they are and not, as jackass comedian Chris Rock puts it, "two niggas [that] got shot." * * 1/2

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