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It's fine to appreciate this film through the sieve of nostalgia. Even
I have a hard time viewing this film without reciting all the words-
I've seen it many many times. But the important thing to note here is
that while Harry Belafonte made a noble effort to shape a story out of
the Bronx's greatest cultural export, it's only successful half of the
time. The result is a film that garners lots of groaning through scenes
while waiting for the 'good parts'. Rae Dawn Chong is flimsy and
ineffective as usual, in the role of the dance school instructor who
'discovers' Lee and KK. The ensuing romance that KK and Tracy have is
terribly trite and makes for sleepy viewing. Likewise the sopping wet
story of Ramon and his girlfriend, who have a child and disapproving
parents. Heavy handed and poorly acted to boot- even for the time
period. All the graffiti was designed by stage painters, and looks like
it- distant and plastic. This is a depiction of a corny world indeed.
What Beat Street is notable for, is managing to compile many notable
music artists and b-boys/b-girls in performance. The Rock Steady and NY
Breakers footage, the Us Girls group assembled for this film, Busy Bee,
Melle Mel and the Furious Five, Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force, Tina B.,
Brenda Starr, Treacherous Three and Doug E. Fresh- there's loads of it
which greatly outweighs the mindless fluff of the so-called plot. The
soundtrack (co-produced by Arthur Baker of "Planet Rock" fame) is
extremely notable as well. It was originally sold in 2 volumes, and
while each record has several watery ballads, the classic songs like
"Frantic Situation", "Son of Beat Street", "Santa's Rap" and "Battle
Cry" are very much worth the purchase.
If you're like me and miss 'old New York' (it was only 20 or so years
ago but NY is totally different) it's really great to see painted
trains, old street scenes and the Roxy. Beat Street has been contrasted
to Wild Style many times, especially with the scorn of Beat Street
being the Hollywood retread of Wild Style's gritty budgeted reality.
This might be the case, but it would seem that Beat Street has a better
focus on b-boying (breakdance) whereas Wild Style's actual graffiti by
famed writers remains the strong point of that film. There's a hokey
wholesomeness present in Beat Street that just isn't realistic.
Regardless, Beat Street is certainly worth viewing- particularly when
it pops up on TV- but be prepared for some stale, hackneyed drama
strewn into the great music and killer scenes.
"Beat Street Breakdown--- RUAHHH!!!"
Tags for Beat Street Full Movie
, Jon Chardiet
, Leon W. Grant
, Rae Dawn Chong
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