Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: Battle of the Year

The young dancers' undeniable skill and athleticism is squandered in this formulaic, overly familiar dance movie.

Sept 20, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1385268-Battle_Year_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Stock characters and a formulaic plotline are the main elements of Benson Lee’s feature film inspired by his documentary Planet B-Boy about an annual breakdancing competition. Battle of the Year seems designed to capitalize on the success of the highly successful Step Up series of dance movies, but it lacks those films’ sexy, glossy appeal. While the presence of best-selling recording artist Chris Brown in a leading role should attract teenage femmes, the film has an overly familiar quality that should prevent it from breakout success.

Josh Holloway, in his first big-screen starring role since his breakout turn on ABC’s “Lost,” plays the central role of Jason Blake, an embittered and alcoholic former basketball coach still grieving over the loss of his wife and teenage son in an automobile accident. Although he would seem to be last person one would choose to motivate tough kids, he’s tapped by his hip-hop mogul pal Dante (Laz Alonso) to coach a team of b-boys ambitiously dubbed the “dream team” as they prepare for the titular premier competition held in Montpellier, France.

Will the emotionally impassive Blake sufficiently overcome his personal demons to whip his ragtag team into shape? Will the undisciplined kids learn to overcome their personal differences and form a cohesive unit? These are not-so-burning issues of the film, which not surprisingly devotes much of its screen time to footage of the dancers going through their strenuously athletic paces.

Blake—whose method of coaching mainly consists of glowering, browbeating his dancers, and uttering banalities like “Time to shine, gentlemen”—is a wholly uninteresting character despite his frequent dramatic tippling from the flask he keeps ever handy. Some comic relief is provided in the form of his wisecracking assistant coach Franklyn (Josh Peck), who claims, “I might be Jewish, but my religion is hip-hop.” Such plot elements as the feud between two of the dancers (Jon Cruz and Brown, the latter not exactly cast against type as a hothead prone to fights) add little to the proceedings.

The screenplay by Brin Hill and Chris Parker does have a few interesting touches, such as a brief discussion over whether what the b-boys do is a dance or a sport. Most surprisingly, it fails to introduce a romantic subplot involving Blake and Stacy (an underused Caity Lotz), the sexy female choreographer hired to whip the boys into shape.

As is usually the case with contemporary dance movies, the undeniable skill of the real life b-boy performers (as well as Brown, who pulls off some impressive moves) is shortchanged by the rapid-fire editing which reduces their routines into brief, often visually incoherent snippets. Neither the negligible 3D conversion nor the director’s overuse of multiple split screens have the effect of making the extended sequences visually appealing.

Proceeding across predictable lines—Blake dramatically forgoes his drinking, one of the main characters is injured right before the main event, etc.—the film culminates in the dramatic competition in which the American dream team faces off against a group of South Koreans. The results set the stage for the inevitable hoped-for sequel.
The Hollywood Reporter



Film Review: Battle of the Year

The young dancers' undeniable skill and athleticism is squandered in this formulaic, overly familiar dance movie.

Sept 20, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1385268-Battle_Year_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Stock characters and a formulaic plotline are the main elements of Benson Lee’s feature film inspired by his documentary Planet B-Boy about an annual breakdancing competition. Battle of the Year seems designed to capitalize on the success of the highly successful Step Up series of dance movies, but it lacks those films’ sexy, glossy appeal. While the presence of best-selling recording artist Chris Brown in a leading role should attract teenage femmes, the film has an overly familiar quality that should prevent it from breakout success.

Josh Holloway, in his first big-screen starring role since his breakout turn on ABC’s “Lost,” plays the central role of Jason Blake, an embittered and alcoholic former basketball coach still grieving over the loss of his wife and teenage son in an automobile accident. Although he would seem to be last person one would choose to motivate tough kids, he’s tapped by his hip-hop mogul pal Dante (Laz Alonso) to coach a team of b-boys ambitiously dubbed the “dream team” as they prepare for the titular premier competition held in Montpellier, France.

Will the emotionally impassive Blake sufficiently overcome his personal demons to whip his ragtag team into shape? Will the undisciplined kids learn to overcome their personal differences and form a cohesive unit? These are not-so-burning issues of the film, which not surprisingly devotes much of its screen time to footage of the dancers going through their strenuously athletic paces.

Blake—whose method of coaching mainly consists of glowering, browbeating his dancers, and uttering banalities like “Time to shine, gentlemen”—is a wholly uninteresting character despite his frequent dramatic tippling from the flask he keeps ever handy. Some comic relief is provided in the form of his wisecracking assistant coach Franklyn (Josh Peck), who claims, “I might be Jewish, but my religion is hip-hop.” Such plot elements as the feud between two of the dancers (Jon Cruz and Brown, the latter not exactly cast against type as a hothead prone to fights) add little to the proceedings.

The screenplay by Brin Hill and Chris Parker does have a few interesting touches, such as a brief discussion over whether what the b-boys do is a dance or a sport. Most surprisingly, it fails to introduce a romantic subplot involving Blake and Stacy (an underused Caity Lotz), the sexy female choreographer hired to whip the boys into shape.

As is usually the case with contemporary dance movies, the undeniable skill of the real life b-boy performers (as well as Brown, who pulls off some impressive moves) is shortchanged by the rapid-fire editing which reduces their routines into brief, often visually incoherent snippets. Neither the negligible 3D conversion nor the director’s overuse of multiple split screens have the effect of making the extended sequences visually appealing.

Proceeding across predictable lines—Blake dramatically forgoes his drinking, one of the main characters is injured right before the main event, etc.—the film culminates in the dramatic competition in which the American dream team faces off against a group of South Koreans. The results set the stage for the inevitable hoped-for sequel.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Film Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Latest rollicking entry in the sturdy series (installments one and two together hit a billion dollars in grosses) again has natural and historic wonders come alive at night to wreak havoc. But it’s largely kids’ stuff. More »

The Interview
Film Review: The Interview

If you’re curious, the movie that has North Korea so upset is genuinely amusing, if flawed in the length department. More »

Annie review
Film Review: Annie

Here’s an updated Annie for today’s entitled, tech-savvy and racially diverse generation of tweens who can easily relate to the new Annie’s love of luxurious toys. Their parents and other adults may miss the sweet innocence of the original, but they won’t be entirely bored by this frenetic new version of her classic story. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here