An extremely talented young break-dancer from New York, who goes by “Angel,” and her best friend are attacked in an alley. Both are stabbed and only Angel survives. She moves with her mother to Los Angeles and begins a quest to return to Brooklyn on her own. In the meantime, she is rehabilitating from her stabbing injury and is prompted to rekindle her love of dance. Before long she finds a crew and is set to find a new life in LA and display her talents once more.
Be packaging might make one assume that this film is all about the dancing as it mentions to likes of Step Up and Stomp the Yard, but until the later parts of the film the lion’s share of our time is spent on the extremely serious drama of an deadly attack and how Angel must escape the very real threats in her life (the attacker is a well known former friend/possible lover who is never caught, a plot point that never resolves itself) along with her alcoholic mother and the pains of rehabilitation. One might be disappointed that it is not all fun and dancing but there is a sense of relief that the stakes are that much more real for these characters.
The performances are good enough that we are able to buy into the drama but the script fumbles here and there with some sloppy melodramatic scenes and some mishandling of character development. We have complete sympathy for Angel since she experienced such horrible things, but said sympathy bounces back and forth sometimes as her determination is often played as sheer stubborn bratiness and after a while I could no longer understand her desire to return to New York. Some dramatic moments work, such as an interesting take on the usual scar-comparison, romantic ice breaker that turns from physical scars to emotional ones, while others completely miss the mark, such as an embarrassingly misguided scene where Angel is trying to search cheese and crackers to people and somehow we’re supposed to buy that her having a hard time with a group of very rude friends of her grandmother is a knock against her character.
I understand that hip-hop/dance movies will contain certain elements that are seemingly unavoidable. I allow myself to look past the endless confrontations that are so aggressive that I can never see fully relating to them (including the token “it’s on” moments that South Park once parodied so well) but I am not 100% sure about the insistence on having hip-hop fill every musical void and score every montage, or not so much just hip-hop music, but stuff that is perpetually danceable. When Angel is scene in the hospital for the first time in great pain, my feet do not need to be bouncing to the rhythm. There is so much to be said about how music can set a tone and if the music is lighter in attitude (we’re not talking disco, but not deep) then the scene loses much of its emotional strength. I’d be like if the movie were based around Metal music, and when we see the main character barely containing their tears alone in a hospital bed and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades kicks in (again, maybe not that goofy…but you see where I’m getting at?).
In the end, dancing comes to the forefront and I cannot help but be impressed. The dancers in this film are undoubtedly talented and always help to maintain interest for the viewers.
Widescreen 1.85:1. The picture is quite hazy throughout. The darker lighting of the major dance scenes, as well as the bleaching effect of exterior California scenes, can hide some of the flaws but more often then not the lack of crispness to the dark shades is very apparent.
Note: the end credits are the most polished part of the film and do look good.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround available in both English and French. Immediately it is made obvious that music gets the greatest attention and booms on the speakers just fine but the dialogue is so much quieter that you will find yourself adjusting the volume so much that you’ll miss certain lines and get rocked by the bass of the frequent hip-hop music when it returns. A very disappointing lack of balance in the mix if this film is not all about the music (which it is not).
Subtitles available in Spanish.
Bloopers: Just a bunch of general flubs made by the actors. Nothing special.
Dance Auditions: Simply and amazing display of control and creativity from featured dancers. Pure fun.
Dancer Profiles: Small video bios of 5 lead dancers/actors in the film. Some fun information, such as “Flipz” holding the world record for most headspins, and good dancing (shocker).
The Battle: A Behind-the-scenes look at what it took to assemble and pull of the climatic final battle. It was interesting to see how they basically filmed it all as a true battle, so the dancers reactions and taunts would be real.
One of the major break-dance philosophies for their audience is this, if you can’t do it, you HAVE to applaud or pay. And since some of the dance moves I saw nearly had me leap out of my seat, I give this film extra points for that. Otherwise, this is an acceptable drama that can be clumsy but took the chance at mixing something extremely upsetting with something that is supposed to be the height of expressing joy and does have some positive messages to say.