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One Movie Punch

Jan 18, 2019

Hello film fans!

Andrew here - back with another film straight out of Fantastic Fest here in Austin, that made its U.S. premiere back in 2017. Switching gears from last week, this week’s film is not scary and has no body count, at least not by the literal definition of the term. Fantastic Fest does an amazing job of sourcing genre films, typically centered around horror, sci-fi or crime, but also nabs pictures like this one that are difficult to fit into any box. Unfortunately, that often leads to these auteur films not getting a meaningful theatrical release, and, in the case of today’s movie, being hustled onto a streaming service that ensures it will remain a cult film.

Today’s movie is “Bodied”, the subversive battle rap comedy that updates “8 Mile” for today’s audiences, produced by none other than Eminem himself. “Bodied” tells the story of Adam (played by Disney alum Calum Worthy), a white Berkeley grad student writing his thesis on the various uses of the “n-word” in battle rap. Directing this film through rough waters is Joseph Kahn, a veteran music video director with a long career working with a number of A-list artists. Adam and his girlfriend head to Oakland to interview Rapper Behn Grimm (Jackie Long) and check out some of the battles, an arena in which Adam is well-versed but only through what he has seen on YouTube. Adam raps his way into the community with a cast of diverse characters including rapper Prospek (Jonathan Park), who, like the film’s director, is Korean-American. Through battles and conversations, the movie dines on a full menu of social issues: racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia, cultural sensitivity and appropriation. 

When Adam joins the battle rap circuit, he must decide whether to take the high road or fall in step with his competition, who are unloading on every stereotype you can imagine. As one of the film’s lone white rappers, and certainly the only one with zero street cred, he questions whether it’s acceptable for someone in his privileged position to match the language of his opponents who represent minority backgrounds. The film goes all in with some brilliant rhymes, flawlessly delivered and captured beautifully on film. Director Kahn knows how to light a scene as we move between parking garages, clubs, and basements, using on-screen text and visual effects to cleverly highlight the lyrical delivery. If you can handle the raunchy and brutal language that takes up a good portion of the two-hour runtime, the underlying story has a lot to offer.

While Adam is the main character here, the heart of the film is rapper Behn Grimm. And yes, that is a reference to the Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm, one of many geek-culture references found throughout the film. Grimm is the guy that seems to have it all figured out and his character gains depth as we learn more about what propels him. On the other side, Adam comes across more like a villain, who stumbles across a mystic gemstone that gives him a superpower he does not know how to yield, in this case his sudden onset of genius rap talent. While these two work to understand one another, the film – bucking cultural sensitivity entirely - culminates in a climatic and shocking final series of battles.

What makes Bodied (2017) fantastic?

You can call it the comedic version of “8 Mile”, but that doesn’t do the film justice as a singular work. Where “8 Mile” was the story of a man finding his voice through rap as he struggles with adversity, “Bodied” is a raw satire of the appropriation of black culture told through a privileged anti-hero. You absolutely must see this film, so log into your paid YouTube premium account and… oh, what’s that? You don’t pay for YouTube or know anyone who does? Well, head on over to YouTube and sign up for a free trial so you can watch this film. Just don’t forget to cancel.

“Bodied” (2017) is bombastic entertainment for the thick-skinned who aren’t afraid of a little discomfort and who wish to be challenged; a film that will be interpreted much differently depending upon the viewer. Fans of modern social dramas filled with dark, subversive humor, such as “Sorry to Bother You” or “Blindspotting” will appreciate this film.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (CERTIFIED FRESH)

Metacritic: 75

One Movie Punch: 9.6/10

“Bodied” (2017) is rated R and is currently streaming on YouTube Premium.

Come back next week when I’ll be reviewing “In Order of Disappearance”, the 2014 dark Norwegian crime comedy starring Stellan Skarsgård. If you’ve seen the preview for the latest Liam Neeson senior-citizen action flick, “Cold Pursuit”, due in theaters next month, let me first tell you about the terrific foreign film on which it was based.