This is a film which is almost crying out for a one-line review, like “the greatest dystopian computer-dance-game you’ll see this year” or something like that. It almost goes out of its way to look silly, from its trailer – street gangs with unnecessarily similar names, almost constant profanity, the oddest plot – but there’s a lot more going on here than a central concept and clever marketing.
This film centres around two streeet gangs – the 248, our heroes, led by BTRO and JTRO; and the 245, led by L Dubba E. This film belongs in the glorious tradition of films where the police apparently don’t exist – and problems between street gangs are sorted out by games of Beat Beat Revelation, which is definitely not Dance Dance Revolution. We start the film with a matchup between the 245 and 248 – little brother JTRO wins his match against the delightfully named Sugga Nigga, while BTRO, for a reason I’m not sure is ever mentioned later on, drops dead halfway through his match with L Dubba E. JTRO, distraught at this, leaves town and abandons the FP (Frazier Park, the location of the film) to the 245.
A lot of the reviews of this film have been comparing it to sport films, which I suppose is true to a point, but it reminded me most of the classic Hero’s Journey. There’s the trauma that starts his journey, the friends who support him, the work to become the hero we all know he can be, and the climactic battle at the end. Oh, and there’s a girl to win over as well. There’s a glorious cast of characters with even more glorious names – KC/DC, BLT, Beat Box Busta Bill and all the people mentioned above, a set of odd-looking locations, cameos from people you’ll sort of vaguely recognise from other films and some awesome dialogue.
First and foremost, this film is loads and loads of fun. Like all good parodies, it plays it absolutely straight (apart from one scene lifted from an episode of “Police Squad!”, near the end), and the acting is surprisingly strong for such a low-budget film. L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy) is particularly great, like a raging, perpetually angry slang-shooting mohican-wearing erection made into a human; and there’s KC/DC, like a demented sensei / fixer for the 248. The dialogue is hilarious, too – just constant N-bombs and F-bombs and MF-bombs. In fact, the dialogue made a theory pop into my head, which was only dispelled by the last few minutes of the film. The FP is actually some Truman’s Show-style enclosure, where the only source of education was mid-90s gangsta rap. They throw the N-bomb around so much that it sort of ceases to have any meaning, but if you consider they’ve heard rap music but have no concept of skin colour, they’d just assume it was an insult, and that’s why the word stops being offensive. Why was my theory spoiled, I hear you ask? Well, there’s a solitary black guy in the film (way in the background of one scene near the end); and they tell you what N-I-G-G-A stands for – “Never Ignorant, Getting Goals Accomplished”.
If you wanted to, I think, you could dismiss it as something designed to be the sort of film that sites like this will watch, laugh at and then move on. And that’s what my viewing companion, my wife, did (after stopping the film a few times to ask me “is this really happening?” and “oh god, I can tell you’re going to love this”). But I think there’s a lot more to this, it’s made by people who were paying a great deal of attention to what they did, and there’s bits and pieces in there to reward the careful viewer. Firstly is the sheer range of their vision – this film is a sport film, a hero’s journey, a parody of dystopian films, a really funny comedy and has elements of all sorts of low-budget genre films. The already-discussed dialogue is pretty incredible – insults of length and speed are pulled off remarkably, and there’s a real richness to it, I think – take, for instance, ““Don’t let this shit put your brain on flips, you gotta think of beat beat like it was the civil war!” There are also little things that give hints to the wider world – there are two pole-dancers in this film, and they’re both men, and the main hot women in the film are discovered dancing at the club inside a kid’s paddling pool. I really hope it wasn’t a “hey, we’ve got a paddling pool, what do you want us to do with it?” moment, but it’s so…odd…that it makes you ponder what their world is like.
Also, for the second film in a row, I need to mention the treatment of women. There’s a lazy dancer early on who has one boob hanging out to the delight of no-one (in the film, I mean), and the ending…well, it’s either pretty misogynist or an absolutely hilarious send-up of the conventions of these films, done with a straight face. My wife wasn’t thrilled by it, but I think they were aiming for the second option. The woman-as-prize thing is so ludicrous in this film that it has to be a parody, and I think it’s pretty clever of them to do it. I’d love to see more films where the women were in control and the men were the love interests, but I’ll settle for films like this, which show others up for what they are by amping up the ludicrousness.
I absolutely recommend this film to you all. In the spirit of supporting independent cinema, and after loving the trailer, I bought “Tha Delooxe Toe Up From Tha Mutha-Fucking Flow-Up Edishun”, containing not only the blu-ray, but your very own L Dubba E “grill”, a tampon signed by the filmmakers (it’s a plot point, amazingly) and a signed poster, which I’m going to work at getting displayed somewhere in the house.
I was reading a few other reviews, in order
to find stuff to rip off to see if there was an angle I’d not thought of. Most of them were of the “leave your brain at the door, and you’ll love it” variety. I say no to that. Take your brain in, because there’s stuff in there to reward it. It may be cheap, a bit ridiculous and plenty ugly-looking, but the whole is a great deal more than the sum of the parts. Watch it, and enjoy.