Sunday, April 22, 2012

StreetDance 2

Dirty Dancing

Assemble a crew with dance abilities, and you can have a dance film. Step Up showed how street dancing can be viable for the big screen, and the European's StreetDance movie continues into its second edition, this time becoming a little bit geographically encompassing with the narrative traversing almost all of Europe during the opening credits to recruit a series of dancers for yet another movie/story. It can't get any more blatant than that, but like any genre film, the kick is in the strength of its unique value proposition, and with so many moves that can be amalgamated and combined, there is a possibility for infinite sequels.

The flimsy story, if there's ever a need for one for films like this, follows the disastrous efforts of an American boy Ash (Falk Hentschel), a popcorn seller who fell on his bum when challenging the top crew team known as the Invincibles during a competitive dance off. Eddie (Geprge Sampson), a returning character from the earlier film, sees Ash's talent, and convinces him to head a crew that they will assemble to take on The Invincibles again during an upcoming European dance competition in 8 weeks time. They get a crew easily due to Eddie's contacts, with an eye for keeping it multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural. So a rag tag crew assembles, and to add some flavour and sensuousness to the group, Ash and Eddie recruits Eva (Sofia Boutella), a Latin dancer to help them all learn how to sizzle on the floor.

Is this film unrealistic? For the most parts, yes but it's something of a quibble that will plague any genre film that adheres strictly to an established, working formula. Unless someone in the crew has a trust fund to tap from, everyone seems to be surviving on dance and eating air. But that's the least of our concerns where they get their sustenence from, as all we need to see, is to see them dance, and all real world troubles will be instantly forgotten. And we really don't care about their backgrounds and such - efforts to add depth to characters all fall flat - except to see them work together to execute slick, choreographed moves against beat bobbing music that will leave the non-dancers amongst us astonished at how dance helps to contribute to toned bodies and rock solid abs.

As a film, directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini's efforts showed a little bit more maturity than their earlier StreetDance film, especially since it now got the knack of 3D. The first film went straight for the format, and found itself rooting the camera to the ground for the most parts, and like the worst of dancers, being extremely rigid in its capture of every dancer's movement, or moving the camera in bullet time format while freeze framing the dance action. Most of the time it was set square to the action so that everyone, and everything, has a chance at flying toward the screen. There's no need for that now, although there were subconscious efforts to try and maximize value for those who paid top dollar for 3D, but otherwise it can be done without, and the camera now breathes a lot more, moving around with bold angles to do justice to efforts by the dance choreographers in coming up with innovative, creative moves.

What got worked into the story was of course its much touted fusion of Latin Dance and Street Dance, with the usual storyline going where practitioners of either just cannot fathom how they can work together because of differences in philosophies and practices, but soon find it within themselves to respect the other form, and to blend styles and attitudes together to come up with something unique and new that opponents have no answer to. But that is only if opponents were actually given an equal amount of time to showcase what they can do. With the story so focused on Ash, Eva and their crew, little time gets devoted to the other teams, even during the expected big bang finale, that the story just had to find a technical loophole for the final dance battle to occur. Which works when the runtime had to be strictly kept to under 90 minutes.

If I may file another complaint on the story, it would be how the formula had to be followed to a T, with the expected rift caused between the leader and his troops coming from what was thought and mentioned as a sense of quitting and letting everyone down, when I felt that if they had pounced on the opportunity of not letting the enemy gain some intel on one's secret weapon and moves, it perhaps could have been a little better, and narratively less jarring with characters keeping to their motives and objectives rather than to let formula dictate how events have to strictly unfold. Especially since it involves an exchange of bodily fluids the scene before.

But as a genre fan, that wait for the finale was worth it, although my favourite dance routine has got to be that Druken-Master-Kung-Fu inspired moves that must be seen to be believed!

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