Beat Street Film Review
Directed by Stan Lathan
Written by Steven Hager (story), Andrew Davies, David Gilbert and Paul Golding (Screenplay)
Starring Rae Dawn Cong, Guy Davis and Jon Chardiet
An up and coming DJ from The Bronx struggles to break through in to the big time in the Hip Hop world. Together with his crew of Breakers, Artists and Rappers they struggle to find their way in to the big time and expose their talents to a wider audience.
Double K (Guy Davis) lives with his mother Cora and his younger brother Lee in the a deprived area of New York's Bronx. Double K is an aspiring DJ who wants to get his sound out in to the major clubs of New York but just needs to get the break that he thinks will propel him in to the big time. Lee (Robert Taylor) is one of the best Breakdancers around and is a member of the Beat Street crew. Together with Ramon (Jon Chardiet) an amazing graffiti artist and Chollie (Leon W Grant) an entrepreneur and the group's self styled Manager, they form a close knit group of friends with different talents but the same aspirations.
With no regular residency, Double K settles for impromptu house parties to promote his sound and it is at one of these that his younger brother turns up and after members of the Bronx Rockers appear and accuse the Beat Street breakers of being 'biters' a challenge is thrown down for a battle at The Roxy, the top club in the city.
After the epic Breakdance battle at the Roxy, Lee is approached by a composer called Tracy (Rae Dawn Chong) she invites Lee to her studio, where she is writing the music for a stage show that is set to go before the public. A misunderstanding sees the street crew at loggerheads with the more established leads of Tracy's company. But Tracy is not willing to let go on the talent she has found and trying to show the street crew that they are not so different in what they are trying to achieve.
With each of the crew backing up the other, Ramon's artistic pursuits of making the world a more beautiful place by painting his 'burners' on the city's derelict buildings and more effectively on the sub way trains that carry his art to every borough. His efforts though are thwarted and sabotaged though by the 'tagger' Spit. Spit paints his name over the top of the stunning artwork because he isn't able to compete with the best graffiti artists.
The death of one of the crew brings the whole of community together to celebrate all of the talent that they have to offer in a way that only this sort of community could do.
Everybody has heard the expression 'that was the soundtrack to my youth' well, this movie was that for me. From the opening scenes of slipping on a pair of fat laced Puma trainers this film proved a benchmark for music, art and dancing.
At this point in time Hip Hop was in it's infancy in Europe and the effect that this film had on the likes of myself and millions of others cannot be under estimated. At that time is was easier to distribute Video across the globe and the content of this film, with real exponents of their art actually breaking and rapping reinforced the realism of what you were watching.
The battle between The Rock Steady Crew (Bronx Rockers) and The New York City Breakers (Beat Street) in The Roxy is still one of the best Breakdance sets committed to film. It may not have the acrobatics and strength moves of today's B Boys, but is a flat out fluid set of old school breakin' that incorporates everything that is the basis of any moves you would see today. The performances from the likes of Afrika Bambaattaa and The Soul Sonic Force, Doug E Fresh, Grand Master Melle Mel and The Furious Five, Jazzy J and Treacherous Three help to reinforce the validity of the films importance. Along with the addition of the original club maestro Kool Herc, Beat Street is a incredible part of Hip Hop culture.
There aren't many films that can say they have influenced a whole generation in the catagories of art, dance and music on a massive scale, but I truly believe this film can. I still enjoy watching this film today and have converted many a sceptic by slipping on this classic and asking them to fault it's base elements. A lot of the acting may leave a bit to be desired for but the vast majority of the 'actors' are real parts of Hip Hop culture and for me that makes it all the better!