Picks and Pans Review: Beat Street

UPDATED 07/23/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/23/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

By now the flips and spins have become familiar, the raps and beats repetitive. With the novelty gone, films of the ever-growing break dance genre have to answer the question "What have you done for us lately?" Happily, Beat Street does a lot. Co-produced by Harry Belafonte and shot on location in New York, this film wonderfully fuses the virtues of its predecessors—refining the gritty street scenes and realistic passion of 1983's low-budget Wild Style while better developing a plot similar to this year's Breakin'. The movie's intentions are overt: to spread the word that a little talent, intelligence and guile can propel ambitious kids out of the ghetto. Guy Davis, 32, the son of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, is insightful as a young deejay whose only escape from the South Bronx is through his music. Rae Dawn Chong is both forceful and endearing as a sophisticated modern-dance director. Jon Chardiet is strong too as a graffiti artist who must choose between his art and the responsibility of raising a family. At times the film shies away from real violence in favor of dance fights between the New York City Breakers and the Rock Steady Crew—shades of West Side Story. But there is a vividly energetic finale, the funk equivalent of a vaudeville extravaganza. Director Stan (Amazing Grace) Lathan has made a film that ought to do for break dancing what Saturday Night Fever did for disco. (PG)

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