Picks and Pans Review: Wild Style

updated 02/13/1984 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1984 01:00AM

In 1980 Charlie Ahearn, a white filmmaker with only minor documentary work to his credit, wandered into the predominantly black and Hispanic South Bronx to make a musical featuring rap music and break dancing. Spending less than $300,000, he returned with this half fictionalized, half spontaneous film that is filled with energy and feeling for the urban streets. The scanty plot concerns a graffiti artist, George Quinones, who in real life goes by the pseudonym of "Lee" when depositing his spray-painted "works" on the New York City subway. With the help of a promoter played by artist-rapper Fred "Fab 5 Freddy" Brathwaite and a newspaper reporter played by Patti Astor (actually Brathwaite's gallery manager), he tries to bring his talent out of the ghetto. Most of the scenes seem unstructured, but Quinones, who is essentially playing himself, has some presence. The rapping, by the Cold Crush Bros, and the Fantastic Freaks, among others, is infectiously rhythmic. And the dancing, by Rock Steady Crew (the Flashdance breakers), Electric Force and Loose Bruce and Polly G, is a hyperactive version of all those '30s and '40s tap-dancing routines. With Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte reportedly planning more elaborate rap-break features, this unpretentious film is only a long preview, but it's fun nonetheless. (R)

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