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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Beat Street
Beat Street
MGM // PG // April 15, 2003
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted May 6, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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P R I N T
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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 Chong 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 himself. 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.

VIDEO:
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.

AUDIO:
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.

EXTRAS:
Only the film's trailer is included.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
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.

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