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  Breakin' Dance, Sucker
Year: 1984
Director: Joel Silberg
Stars: Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo Quinones, Michael Chambers, Ben Lokey, Christopher McDonald, Phineas Newborn III, Ice-T
Genre: MusicalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) is stuck in a go-nowhere waitressing job but also an aspiring dancer looking for her big break when a friend in her dance class draws her attention to the new phenomenon of "Street Dancing". Making friends with a duo of breakdancers, Ozone (Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones) and Turbo (Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers), Kelly is impressed with their skills and wants to learn more - but will this get her the big audition she desires?

This swift cash in on breakdancing from Cannon Films, away from their signature action flicks, was written by Charles Parker, Allen DeBevoise and Gerald Scaife, and is very much in the tradition of those fifties and sixties exploitation movies based around dance crazes like the Twist. You know how in West Side Story the fight scenes are choreographed like dance numbers? Well, Breakin' goes one step further, here the dancing is a substitute for fighting, a chance to show your rivals just what you're made of: we call that the dance-off, and it was nowhere more in evidence than here, everyone pulling it off with great aplomb.

At the time, parallels were made between Breakin' and recent, far bigger-budget hit Flashdance, and sure enough Kelly has her sights set on getting that big audition, although here she's a waitress rather than a welder. But you could also draw parallels with any number of Hong Kong kung fu movies, with the wise master - Ozone - teaching his pupil - Kelly - in the new ways of his discipline to win out over the bad guys, who in this case are breakdancing rivals and, especially, Kelly's untrustworthy former teacher, Franco, who tried to seduce her, but that turned into trying to force himself on her.

Of course, the noble Ozone has his own troubles to contend with - does he stick to his principles and continue to dance on the street, or does he sell out to big business and commercialise his art? Well, obviously the latter or he wouldn't have done this film (Quinones said later he believed this film was responsible for hip-hop being the cultural force it remains today, so he was evidently personally content with his work here), but there's also a further complication: there's a romance brewing between him and Kelly. In fact, Lucinda Dickey must have some irresistable power over men, because she has three guys interested in her in the space of eighty minutes of movie time.

And what of the musical numbers? For someone like me, who finds the Hokey Cokey too much to cope with, the athletic dancing is highly impressive, with all the spinning, jumping and sliding that entails. Check out the dance competition where our heroes whip the jackets off of their rivals, or the guy whirling around on crutches - the lightweight, clich├ęd story is just a peg to hang these fun sequences on, albeit the fact that they only had enough plot for about ten minutes of screen time was painfully obvious. Mind you, who cared when the terpsichorean setpieces they conjured up to fill up the rest of the production were this exuberant, this, dare we say, electrifying?

Call it a guilty pleasure, if indeed you do feel guilty about appreciating this sort of thing. Watch for: Ice T rapping in the blandest style imaginable, and Franco stopping some impromptu dancing in time-honoured style by scratching the needle over the record. Soundtrack includes Kraftwerk (Chamber's broom dance to this is a definite highlight), Art of Noise and Rufus with Chaka Khan (and a lot of forgettable stuff too). The film was speedily followed by a sequel rushed out the same year: Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, the film that spawned a million internet memes and no third follow-up, since this was about as of its time as it's possible to be - everyone thought hip-hop was a fad, much as the Lambada would be, and that dance delivered two rival movies from the Cannon boys (separately). Well, almost everyone thought it was a fad: Quinones was onto something with this...
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Joel Silberg  (1927 - )

Israeli theatre director who broke into Hollywood movies after twenty years of directing in his home country with breakdance movie Breakin'. He followed it up with inoffensive low-budget exploitation fare like Rappin' and Lambada.

 
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