Step Up Revolution Movie Review by Bill Kilpatrick
Step Up Revolution isn’t so much a drama about a boy and a girl, amid the backdrop of Miami. It’s just dance porn. The storyline is about as complex as anything starring Ron Jeremy, but in this case, the clothes stay on for the sake of dry humping amidst lights, camera and all-out action. That said, as these go, you can’t get much better grooving than Step Up Revolution, which pops and crackles from beginning to end. No matter how stupid the plot, this is a film that believes in the adage, “Go big or go home.” If you’re a dance addict, particularly of the break-dancing, urban, hip-hop-mixed-with-flash-mobs kind, this is total eye candy. If you’re looking for an honest take on the human condition, you’re in the wrong screening room. You could probably do better stepping out into the hall, spinning around three times and going wherever you find yourself staggering. You won’t, however, get the same experience.
Emily (Katherine McCormick) is new to Miami, her chosen venue in an attempt to become a “professional dancer.” (Note: Miami is full of “professional dancers” but that’s another story.) Apparently, she’s technically superb but also soulless, which makes you wonder why she isn’t in New York jonesing for a spot in the ballet. Instead, Emily is all hip hop, with moves that make Flash Dance look like an Amish wedding. Between rejections, she runs into Sean (Ryan Guzman), a waiter who moonlights as a member of Project Mayhem Miami, an outfit referred to in the film as “The Mob.” These gangstas, or mobstas, are aptly named because they form flash mobs all over metro Miami, in attacks that not only stop traffic but produce an amazing amount of resources for a group in need of a payday. In an early scene, “the Mob” doesn’t just block reasonable “ingress and egress” from one of those streets in Miami where survival depends on your ability to never slow to less than 30 mph. They hop on the tops of cars (for a little Donna Summer-era “Let’s Dance” action) and then bring out the big guns: low-riders that hop onto their back tires like transformers tripped out on spiked Pennzoil.
One wonders what motivates a flash mob. What makes people go to such trouble to coordinate and execute a “spontaneous” happening? Writers Amanda Brody and Duane Adler have basically nailed it: They want to get 10 million hits on Facebook so they can win a prize. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? In the meantime, Emily has problems of her own. She and her “get a real job” daddy (Peter Gallagher) are on the outs because he can’t see Emily’s vision (whatever that might be) and she’s not thrilled with his solution: “Come back to Cleveland and work for me” – tempting as that offer might be. (One wonders if the writers weren’t shooting for camp before director Scott Speer took them at face value.) This all leads to the film’s inevitable conflict: Emily’s hook-up with “the Mob” while her father tries to buy up Miami’s river front (no doubt using what’s left of the Cleveland money in the process).
Again, I say, this is where the marginally literate and the dance addicts part company. As Emily becomes a flash-dancing Patty Hearst, the Mob manages to out-PETA the Sierra Club, in terms of pure “cojones,” as it crashes every party in metro Miami, with all the vigor of the Blues Brothers in their attempt to recruit Mr. Fabulous at the Chez Paul. It’s amazing how Miami’s biggest venues lack any kind of security, or how the hypnotic fascination of watching choreographed outrages can prevent a bunch of bumrushers from getting arrested. It’s also funny how Miami’s finest never know where to look for tricked-out low riders that do wheelies. But that’s the wrong tack to take with a film like this. Step Up Revolution was meant to be enjoyed as a celebration of hip-hop hoppery at its finest. For the most part, this film delivers, though there was at least one scene where Emily gets the jerks and I didn’t know whether to call 9-1-1 or shout, “Superstar!” Some of that bumping and grinding is probably familiar even to folks in Cleveland, but Step Up Revolution really pulls out the stops. It’s practically Circue du Soleil on crack. It was in that vein that I found myself going with the flow, in spite of my better judgment. As anyone who has ever enjoyed Oliver Stone on a rant, it’s not always rationality that carries the day. Sometimes, you gotta just swing for the fences. Or, to switch sports metaphors, this film is Rudy: Five-foot nothin’ but out to plow through the enemy line for Notre Dame. But even Rudy would have taken a look at a film like this and said, “Get real.”