Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan Movie Poster Image
Docu on hip-hop greats has frequent cursing, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2007
  • 79 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Members of the Wu-Tang Clan, who had been rivals from different neighborhoods in Staten Island, connected and set aside their differences over the music they were making. 

Violence

Talk of how one of the members of Wu-Tang Clan set himself on fire in prison in order to be sent out of prison and into a mental health facility. Talk of street violence. 

Sex

Member of Wu-Tang Clan talks about "p---y" while on tour. 

Language

Frequent uses of "f--k" and its variations. "S--t," "p---y," "dick." One of the members went by "Ol' Dirty Bastard." 

Consumerism

Talk of how Wu-Tang Clan "expanded their brand" and also sold clothing and video games. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking. Marijuana smoking. Talk of drug and alcohol abuse. Struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, for one member in particular who died young. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan is a 2007 documentary about the rise, fall, and rebirth of one of the all-time greats of hip-hop. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's frequent use of "f--k" and its variations in songs and speech. There's strong language: a member of Wu-Tang Clan talks about "p---y" while on tour. There's some drinking and marijuana smoking, and talk of drug and alcohol abuse, and how it caused problems within the group and led to the early death of one of its members, Russell Jones, aka "Ol' Dirty Bastard." There's also talk of how Jones set himself on fire while in prison so that he would be transferred to a mental health facility. On the positive side, the documentary shows how the nine members who made up Wu-Tang Clan set aside their differences from coming up in rival factions for the sake of the music, and how they rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most-loved and best-selling hip-hop artists of all time. 

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What's the story?

In the early '90s, nine rappers from Staten Island started working together to find the success that had eluded them as individuals up to that point. Calling themselves the Wu-Tang Clan, they went on to sell millions of albums while also launching solo careers, acting careers (Method Man), a clothing line, and video games. WU: THE STORY OF THE WU-TANG CLAN chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of one of the all-time greats of hip-hop. It shows how they set aside their differences to work toward success, the high points of that rise, and the difficulties that came with that success, culminating in the death by drug overdose of Ol' Dirty Bastard. Using old footage and interviews with some of the members as well as some of those who were around to watch it happen, Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan presents a bare-bones overview of a story that, in order to be fully told, would require several more hours of film. 

Is it any good?

While the first half of this documentary provides a decent overview of one of hip-hop's all-time greats, the second half loses focus. This lack of focus is to be expected in some ways when trying to tell a story of nine disparate performers working and performing together collectively and individually, but the result is unsatisfying. This is further compounded by what feels like limited access to footage, limited access to those in and around the group, and the sense that the material and story hit a little too close to home for the director, Gerald Barclay (aka "Gee-Bee," who directed their "Protect Ya Neck" video), who allowed the story of nine to become the story of one -- namely, Ol' Dirty Bastard and his struggles, imprisonment, and early death. 

The story of the Wu-Tang Clan couldn't possibly be comprehensively told in a short feature-length documentary. It would require several volumes, similar in structure to several-hour documentaries on the Eagles and Tom Petty. It would need the full cooperation of everyone involved, a project that would both answer the questions of the lifelong fans and provide an introduction and overview of what happened for the casual viewer. Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan partially meets this demand, but still leaves a lot unanswered. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music documentaries like Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan. What would be the challenges in making a music documentary that can tell the story of a band or artist for those relatively unfamiliar with their work while finding fresh approaches for the fans who already know the basic facts? 

  • How does this movie compare to other music documentaries? 

  • What would be the challenges in making a music documentary on nine distinct members of a musical group who worked individually as well as collectively? 

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