In a world where our local movie theaters are bombarded with superhero flicks, book adaptations, true stories that aren't true and movies based on something your grandpa liked when he was six, its hard to push for originality. Its even harder when the studios are more business-oriented than they've ever been in history. If you want a movie that's even remotely original, you really have to work to find it. Don't get me wrong, I have truly liked a lot of the movies that fit those descriptions above. But over-saturation of anything in the market isn't good for it. Film will only stagnate if studios refuse to try anything new. If you are willing to do that legwork, it can be big fun for you as an individual. I had one of those experiences today.
I am kind of surprised that "Bodied" isn't getting the mainstream big weekend opening I think it deserves. Its a movie being produced by Eminem, and you'd think that he could create a decent brand name for himself. He is one of the biggest rap stars in the business right now, for better or for worse and his name could easily sell tickets. I think a movie about rap battles could do fairly well in a movie theater too, I mean, who remembers just how popular "8 Mile" was at the time in 2002?
"Bodied" was directed by Joseph Kahn and at first, I thought Kahn was really starting to branch out into new territory. And truly he is, but he is beginning to create a visual signature that is very much him. He is beginning to punctuate his movies with his own unique style and I can't wait to see how his career progresses. You may know Joseph Kahn. I was ready to write him off in an early age with the awful "Torque" that came out around 2004. Then he made a short film adaptation of Power Rangers, which you can bootleg online for free without going to prison if you know where to go. Its badass but its weird watching it because badass isn't necessarily how I'd ever describe Power Rangers. Kahn really got on my radar though with 2012's "Detention" and if you haven't seen that movie yet, oh my God are you missing out. Its another film that just feels original, almost like punk rock. It's a John Hughes-esque teen movie wrapped in an alien invasion with a character that feels like they should be in "The Fly" with Jeff Goldblum. On paper, it doesn't make a lick of sense, but its so confidently brilliant that you will hand yourself over to it.
Joseph Kahn has made yet another weird masterpiece in the form of a rap battle social satire. Again, I would have never guessed that rap battle and social satire would go together. But when you take time to think about it, of course it makes sense. Rap music has always been smothered in social ques and history, why would it be any different now? It isn't just about rap battles though. Calum Worthy plays Adam and Adam is a college student at Berkeley. He is writing his thesis paper on using the n-word in rap music and to research, he goes to a rap battle competition. He somehow gets wrapped up in rapping at the battle himself and he quickly swept away in his research, and also battling on his own.
The movie is pretty reminiscent of "Fight Club" in some ways. There is a dark tinted cinematography that really highlights the themes of the movie. We also watch as Adam slowly falls down this strange rabbit-hole of a world where anything goes, where you can say anything in order to win a battle. If you are a racist, sexist, asshole in a rap battle, does that mean you are a racist, sexist asshole in real life? Does your rap battle persona a reflection of who you are as an individual? For a movie based on its concept, I think people will really be surprised just how deep "Bodied" cuts and just how clear-eyed it is in its convictions.
Its a movie that plainly states that context matters. That's important, because its driving me nuts today. We are living in a world where everyone gets offended by what somebody says or what somebody does and in most cases, its all false reaction. We are not taking time to really research and understand what others say and do, we simply do the simple task and read a headline or look up a carefully curated quote and think we have all the answers based on tall tales and half truths. We are living in a world where a person of power literally said truth isn't truth. This should scare us all but at the same time, it should remind us that the context of what someone says or does matters and that's what we should be looking for in our news, other media and everywhere now.
I will say that Calum Worthy can act and he sure as shit can spit some game. In fact, the movie is filled with rappers I've never heard of but who can give up some decent performances. Charlamagne tha God, Dumbfoundead, Big T, Daylit...I've never heard of any of these guys. But they sure can act. To be honest, the only guy you'll recognize is Anthony Michael Hall, and he does good work here. I love it when casts of complete unknown come together and rip shit up in the best possible way. Which is exactly what happened here.
YouTube Originals have made a gigantic leap forward this year. I have yet to watch a single episode of Cobra-Kai but I hear its amazing. "Bodied" is freaking amazing too. Absolutely unlike anything playing in cinemas right now. A defiant original, and showcases what Hollywood has forgotten over the years. How originality and creativity will always triumph over familiarity.
FINAL GRADE: A+