film reel image

film reel image

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Beat Street 1984 * * * Stars


"It's like a heartbeat, beat street". Ah the opening credits to a pic I relentlessly saw on HBO. I then practiced my moves in front of a mirror, feeling groovy. 

Anyway for two or three years in the early 80s, break-dancing was a thing. Then it quickly burned out. 1984's Beat Street captures the style of breaking when it was at its pinnacle, all popping and locking and spinning and stuff. Heck, you could almost say this movie is frozen in time.

Beat Street is Saturday Night Fever sans the disco and hot pants. The setting is the same (NYC), there's a tragic death towards the end, and well, there's plenty of vibrant dancing. Beat Street has a little more as it almost feels like a talent show or musical minus everyone breaking out into song. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but the extended scenes of DJing, singing, and break battling sometimes deflate the dramatic momentum. And yeah, there's a few, solid dramatic nuggets to be had. 

More robust and more mature than those other hip-hop pics of the time (Breakin', Krush Groove, Rappin'), Beat Street has atmospheric direction by Stan Lathan and a use of locales that feels bitingly echt. I mean I've never felt like I was in the Bronx more than with this film. Lathan pumps you up on musical numbers and then provides quieter moments where the troupers can breathe and emote. One kinda outweighs the other but oh well. 

Like in "Fever" (mentioned earlier), Beat Street pushes the boomer self-reliance. In tinges, it looks at a graffiti artist, a young breaker, a DJ, and a slick manager trying to break out of their banal existence in a rundown, NYC borough neighborhood. The unknown actors (minus Rae Dawn Chong) do solid work in a flick that's a snapshot of pop culture that unfortunately blew away at the blink of an eye. Still, this "beat" manages to go on. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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