Lionsgate // 2010 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 4th, 2011
Blends the mood, vigor and themes of 8 Mile and the perseverance and edge of Hustle and Flow with the old-school vibe of Juice. (Their words.)
Young up-and-coming music producer Rippa (Conrad Clifton) is itching to make it big with his phat beats. He toils away in the underground scene, often striking out with the crowd and specifically in competition against his arch nemesis, an imposing DJ who enjoys emasculating Rippa in front of hot girls in the club.
You know where this is headed: Rippa will enter a hip-hop beat-making contest and eventually square off with his hated foe. But before all that can happen there is a lot of talking.
The predictability of the film is its undoing. There's a reason that tagline name-dropped so many big-time, hip-hop movies: if you've seen something like this, you know how it's all going to unfurl. So as you sit and wait for Rippa to eventually get to his inevitable big showdown the interminable dialogue will surely drive you batty. The writing is standard issue "I'm just trying to make it in this world," with some light romantic banter tossed in to propel a bland relationship forward -- again, as the game plan mandates. It's a tough slog, made tougher by the film's bloated 102 minute length; Step Off could easily carve away some runtime and still pack in everything that needs to be accomplished.
What of the centerpiece? The big competition at the end? This is the most confounding element of the film actually. First off you have the very nature of the throwdown; it's not a rhyme or dance-off. These guys go on stage and for about nine seconds, belt out a hip-hop instrumental with their dope equipment. Not my bag, but hey, there's enough of a following I'm sure that some viewers would enjoy the display. But in the end, you don't even get to hear the beats. For an unknown reason, a dramatic symphonic score is overlaid on footage of the contestants pressing buttons and formulating their songs. Doesn't this defeat the whole purpose?! In fairness, we do get to hear the beats in the final confrontation between Rippa and his arch-enemy, but, still, what the hey?
The disc: a so-so 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that has nothing to do unless there's hip-hop to blast, a brief making-of featurette, deleted scenes, gag reel and a "beat box" music sampling.
(bass line) (sample) Guilty guilty g-g-g-g-uilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Beat Box