The audience loses with Battle of the Year
Starring Josh Holloway and Chris Brown. Rated PG 13. Opens Friday (September 20) at the Scotiabank Theatre.
On the up side, Chris Brown gets told he’s an asshole, receives a fist in the face, and nearly cripples himself. On the down side, Battle of the Year manages to deaden one of the world’s most exciting art forms with tired sports-movie clichés. Director Benson Lee should know better: he’s the same guy who earned street cred with his 2007 doc Planet B-Boy. The most confounding thing is why he takes so long to bust out the moves here. As even the glossiest, nonstreet Step Ups out there realize, you gotta break it to make it.
The movie opens with music mogul Dante (Laz Alonso) conscripting depressed, alcoholic Jason Blake (Lost’s Josh Holloway) to coach an American B-boy crew to try to regain top spot at the international Battle of the Year (known as “BOTY”) in France. The not-so-fictional premise is that as hip-hop spreads across the planet, it’s on the decline in the country where it all started.
The relentlessly grim Holloway pops nary a lock; instead Blake subjects the rag-tag team to endless pushups, drills, and running—but most sadistic of all, to long, tired coach speeches, like the one about how “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” The crew here (including Brown’s platinum-haired bad boy Rooster—and yes, he can dance) stays generically diverse; there’s a gay guy, a homophobe, a Jew, a Latino, et cetera, but we don’t learn anything about what brought them to street dance or why they’re here. (Rent the riveting Turn It Loose for real insight.) There isn’t even a block-rockin’ soundtrack to keep things moving.
Over half-way in, things finally pick up at BOTY itself, where the real deal top-ranked Korean crew performs inhuman feats. Blake’s bunch looks pretty fly, too, kicking it swing-style and old school. In other words, it mashes up forms a lot more successfully than, say, someone mixing hip-hop and Hoosiers.