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By Doug Brunell | July 29, 2004

“The Record Deal” has some bad moments that deserve a mention only because they are quite a distraction from the overall picture.
Fortunately these cinematic glitches are overshadowed by an interesting (if somewhat standard) story, decent acting, and a certain flair that makes Mark Clayborne a director to keep an eye on in the years to come.

As mentioned, the story is nothing new. A young, hot rapper named
Ron (Brice McMillon) is being ripped off by Ace (Maliek Ramsey), the head of Murder One Records, which is the label that has Ron under contract. Ron wants his money, all one million dollars of it, and he wants it now. If that sounds like a formula story, it is, but it’s the little touches that give the film enough humanity to make it stand out among others of its ilk.

Ron’s character is thoroughly believable. He’s not the standard bad boy rapper you see in most movies. He cares about the love of his life, and it pains him to no end that he has lost her due to Ace’s thievery. Ron’s also living in a small apartment, and wonders how he got in that position when he is the biggest rap star in America with the best-selling CD. (The class war symbolism, though perhaps unplanned, is clearly present.) He has a past, one that most likely includes violence, but has learned from his mistakes and has vowed to never make them again, though that may be a promise that is far too hard to keep as he finds himself being drawn into a scheme that puts him on the business end of a gun.

McMillon’s character is one of the good things about this film.
The bad includes editing that rivals that of grindhouse cinema at its worst, and the use of far too many cliched characters. (Let’s not even mention the marriage proposal that comes in the middle of a gun battle, either.) If this were any other film, the groan-inducing moments would sink it. Luckily, this has Mark Clayborne behind it.

Clayborne and his group of actors have accomplished something worthy of note in a film that should’ve fallen apart in the first half hour. They did this through sheer talent, and for that reason I have to say that Clayborne, if there’s any justice in the universe, needs a bigger budget and more media attention. His lead, McMillon, is another one to watch for, too. He is the strong, sensitive type the camera loves, and he can actually emote without coming across as corny or forced. These two need to make more pictures together … now.

“The Record Deal” may not fly to the top of the charts, but it does deserve praise. Consider it an omen of things to come, and then look out. Clayborne is ready to blow minds.

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