Judge David Johnson is funky-fresh. Yeah, he said it.
"I'm going to suck you like an animal and eat you like a cannibal and
make your body pay."
In 1984 a young man named Chilly D stood up for freedom, for art, for creativity, for his friends and for love—and a nation took notice. Welcome…to the magic!
Facts of the Case
Chilly D. Whisper the name in any borough in New York City and watch what happens. People will turn, look at you, raise their eyebrows and nod, as if to say "Yes, brother, I know." But Chilly wasn't always the NYC icon he became, the permanent engraving into the pop culture of the Big Apple. Chilly D started out like so many others: from the bottom. Body Rock tells his story.
Lorenzo Lamas plays Chilly, a man with a song in his heart and hair on his chest. He runs with the Body Rock Crew, a group of break dancers, rappers, graffiti artists, and emcees. They call night their home, dancing through the city, tagging everything they see and then rocking their cares away at the Rhythm Nation, the hottest after-hour dance club held in a dirty old garage in the city. Chilly seemingly has it all: his friends are loyal, he's beloved by his peers, a young woman has all but impaled herself on his tongue and he has access to one of the largest headband collections in North America. But in the back of his mind, and in the depths of his heart and in the far-reaching corners of his testicles, he knows that he's destined to do so much more with his life.
Brazen, one day he decides to make his own fate and he marches into the headquarters of a well-known talent manager and demands a shot at fame. And he's given that shot. And fame comes. A new club is built around Chilly D and his groundbreaking dance routines and the young man from the Bronx is soon engulfed in a whirlwind of vice and temptation. But what is the cost of having one's earthly desires showered upon him? The cost is terrible, my friends. And for Chilly, when fate comes to collect the bill, the choices that spring forth will carve a wide-eyed idealist into a legend for all time…
There are films. And there are experiences. Body Rock is technically both, but more than anything, it's a staggeringly cheesy break dancing movie. Looking to grab a piece of the Flashdance pie in the mid-'80s, director Marcelo Epstein and whatever misguided foreign financiers crafted a coming-of-age epic that is known less for its absolute aping of every coming-of-age epic that preceded it and more for Lorenzo Lamas's eye-gougingly atrocious wardrobe. And when you star in a film surrounded by characters doing their best to dress as Wood Elves, you can feel confident that you earned that sentiment.
How Lamas can sit back and endure this film now is beyond me, but I suspect it requires massive doses of horse tranquilizers and Zima. The Chuck Taylors, the denim vests with the plunging neckline, the highwater slacks, the suspenders, the plastic pants—these dudes look less like a fearsome gang of edgy youths and more like crewmen from the U.S.S. Gonorrhea on shore leave. To say that nearly everyone embarrasses themselves so thoroughly in this film is an easy observation, but the real head-scratcher is that the documented fashion sense, vernacular and musical sensibilities were ever considered mainstream. Body Rock thus becomes a surreal time capsule, a menagerie of disturbing images and pop culture abortions that offers the viewer a glimpse into a frightening reality where it was okay for a grown man to wear a full-length faux-leather trenchcoat in broad daylight in front of people that weren't visually impaired.
What's amazing about the Body Rock story is…well, theBody Rock story itself. Very little makes even a nucleotide of sense. Take our main man Chilly for example. He's got zero musical ability yet lands a major role in a nightly dance show. I use the term "dance show" loosely, because as far as I can tell, Lorenzo Lamas doesn't dance. His big showbiz debut features him clad in a black-lit mummy costume, mumbling a rap about fighting off skeletons and werewolves in his neighborhood then swinging around a neon bolo. I had no idea what the @#$% was going on, but the crowd seemed to dig it and thus began Chilly's downward spiral into depravity—literally overnight. This guy apparently has the self-control of an Internet stripper. Following his first performance, which his friends and love interest attend, Chilly climbs into a limo, gets wasted, ends up at the whorish co-star's loft and proceeds to engage in implied fornication (thank goodness for those easy-to-remove, handy one-piece jumpsuits for men!) And it gets worse from there, as Chilly becomes subservient to the dark mistress of narcotic abuse. You know the rest: his friends are alienated, his wholesome girlfriend is disillusioned by his skank-addled genitals, and promises of superstardom are squashed when he punches the sexually repressed homosexual club owner in the face at a gay bar. Totally derivative. The finale won't surprise you either, as Chilly regains his focus and humility and—following some highly concentrated injections of penicillin I'm sure—he roars back on stage, gathers his crew and rocks that @#$%!
I suppose we should be thankful for Starz to be releasing this cheesefest on DVD but aside from some appropriately deprecating liner notes, the DVD unveiling is little to Suicide Flip about. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is anamorphic, and that's cool, but this is one dated-looking film. The picture quality often suffers from rampant grain, worse in the myriad darker scenes. On the other hand, the vibrant apparel is given suitable color attention, ensuring that Chilly's various ensembles look as retina-torching as a solar flare, just the way the costume designer/Goodwill cashier intended. The stereo sound mix is pretty horrid. You'll get your fill of the movie's eclectic score ("eclectic" means "terrible and evil" right?) but the dialogue is often muffled. You're not missing out on bard-like soliloquies or anything, but whole segments of line-readings get lost in the shuffle.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Look, as far as corny '80s schlock, Body Rock is pretty much unrivaled. There's enough horror here to keep you and your pals entertained for many, many, many drunken nights to come.
Body Rock certainly has that not-so-Fresh feeling. But I challenge you to look away.
Chilly D lives!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
• Liner Notes
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