Magazine article Screen International

Battle of the Year

Magazine article Screen International

Battle of the Year

Article excerpt

Dir: Benson Lee. US. 2013. 109mins

Eschewing shaded characterization and often basic sense, and establishing what should be the high-water mark for most crotch-grabbing in a single film in 2013, Battle Of The Year drapes a pro forma narrative over lots of acrobatic hip hop dancing. It's not a good film, necessarily, but director Benson Lee, drawing inspiration from his 2008 documentary Planet B-Boy, at least crafts a vehicle that establishes a certain sub-cultural milieu and delivers what viewers most predisposed to a movie like this are interested in.

If one concentrates hard enough and blocks out the considerable stupidity, there's a modicum of enjoyment to be found in the dance scenes themselves.

ith the Step Up movies having proved there's an audience for dance film franchises -- especially abroad, where the last two films in that series have each pulled in over $100 million -- the filmmakers behind Battle Of The Year leave themselves easy avenue for a sequel. Opening wide against the somber kidnap drama Prisoners, the movie should carve out a nice niche among teenage viewers, benefitting from the presence of controversial singer Chris Brown. It will most likely fall on foreign audiences, however, to determine whether its subjects get to battle another year.

Battle Of The Year centers around a same-named, real-life dance contest, held annually in France. Hip hop mogul Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) has created a billion-dollar cultural empire out of his "B-boy" past, but is worried that other countries have wrested away preeminence of the competitive dance form created in the United States. To that end, he hires an old friend, washed-up basketball coach Jason Blake (Josh Holloway), to put together a "dream team" that can win back the title.

With only three months to train, Jason establishes a boot camp of sorts. With the assistance of Franklyn (Josh Peck), he works to snuff out a rivalry between two talented dancers, Rooster (Brown) and Do Knock (Jon "Do Knock" Cruz), and select a group that represents not the best collection of individual American talents but the most cogent team.

In an attempt to inject some measure of drama into the familiar competition-style narrative (where the only reward seems to be "respect" and "honor"), screenwriters Brin Hill and Chris Parker structure the movie like a reality show, with Jason winnowing down the aspirant dancers by handing out a bus pass home each Friday. This means lots of montages, of course. …

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