THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
I've written about a couple of the key early hip-hop movies (Wild
Style, which was the first and the rawest, and Krush Groove
which was one of the glitziest, most star-studded) so it was inevitable
that I'd eventually get around to some of the other early hip-hop
flicks. Once Hollywood got wind of the rapping-break dancing-graffiti
craze sweeping the South Bronx and Queens it was inevitable that every
studio would take a stab.
None of the movies that still get mentioned
are worthless and all are charming, but the sheer volume took some of
the novelty out of seeing this street culture legitimized on the big
screen. Beat Street is yet another story of kids in the South
Bronx coming together to throw parties, pick up chicks and express
themselves. Once again, there are outside forces trying to glom some of
the street cred off the kids. This time it's plucky young Rae Dawn
as the downtown high-culture girl who introduces the notion of escaping
the ghetto to Guy Davis, a DJ/rapper looking to make a name for
Reality comes crashing back down on Davis when one of his friends dies.
There isn't much unique about the story but film gets a lot of details
right. The opening credits immediately feature some excellent break
dancing and graffiti-inspired design while the burned-out buildings and
house-parties vibe of the South Bronx youth culture is legit. (One of the film's most memorable lines: "This ain't New York, this is the Bronx!")
Additional credibility is provided by appearances from rap pioneers like Afrika Bambaata and break dancing legends Rock Steady Crew.
Thankfully MGM has included an anamorphic transfer of Beat
Street on this disc, something that a lot of releases of this sort
haven't had. The picture is gritty but mostly clean and the transfer is
acceptable. Overall the presentation is better than expected. A
full-frame version is also available on the disc.
The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital stereo and is occasionally a bit
murky. Voices are acceptably clear and the music sounds good, although
with the edge of low-budget production that fits the feel of the film.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are available. A mono Spanish
track is also available.
Only the film's trailer is included.
Beat Street is one of the more innocent, sweet hip-hop films from the early days. The cast is decent and the real hip-hop energy is strong. Even though the main love story is pretty uninteresting the loads of break dancing and old-school rapping (plus some classic graffiti) make this another early-hip-hop film to add to the collection.