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  Step Up 4 - Miami Heat Rhythm is going to get you
Year: 2012
Director: Scott Speer
Stars: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Misha Gabriel, Peter Gallagher, Stephen Boss, Chadd Smith, Tommy Dewey, Cleopatra Coleman, Megan Boone, Sean Rahill, Seyfo, Adam G. Sevani, Mari Koda, Brendan Morris, Phillip Chbeeb, Justin Valles, Glenn Mataro
Genre: Musical, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Strap on your dancing shoes, kids, because the Step Up franchise is back for a fourth instalment in the never-ending battle between body-popping youngsters and cynical stuffed shirts. This time the action hits the sultry, sun-kissed beach resorts of Miami. Street-dancing stud-muffin Sean Asa (Ryan Guzman) works as a waiter at the Dimont Hotel by the day but is secretly part of the Mob. No, not the mafia. This Mob are a super-secret urban dance collective gaining rapid infamy for their audacious flash mob pranks.

Dazzling onlookers with their amazing acrobatic moves then escaping before getting arrested by the cops as a public nuisance, Sean and his crew capture every performance on camera, posting it online. Their goal is to land ten million hits on YouTube and win a huge cash prize so they can renovate their ailing neighbourhood. Sparks fly when Sean meets nimble new girl in town, Emily Anderson (Kathryn McCormick), whom he quickly discovers has killer dance moves to match her looks. It makes no difference to Sean that Emily happens to be the daughter of his new boss, millionaire property tycoon Bob Anderson (Peter Gallagher), and he enourages her to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer in the face of her father's scepticism. When it becomes apparent Mr. Anderson has plans that threaten the neighbourhood, Emily joins the Mob to stage a string of dance protests, keeping her identity secret but stirring friction with Sean’s suspicious friend, Eddie (Misha Gabriel).

Even speaking as a long-time fan (or should that be apologist?) of the Step Up movies, one has to concede that plots have never been the strong point of this franchise, to say the least. Step Up 4 - Miami Heat, formerly known as Step Up: Revolution, features a story that is all but interchangeable with earlier entries. Rich girl with dancing dreams falls for hip-hop hunk with urban angst but all the right moves. Much shaking of booty ensues. The old problems remain: trite plotting and dialogue cheesier than a plate-load of gorgonzola, but what can I say? Despite paper-thin characters, leads Ryan Guzman (a former model and mixed martial arts fighter in his acting debut) and Kathryn McCormick are attractive and engaging, the 3D dance sequences choreographed by the ever-ingenious Jamal Sims are as spectacular as ever and the action is mounted with feel-good verve that remains incredibly appealing, bathed in the vivacious visuals of Miami with vibrant colours and scantily-clad eye-candy aplenty. Fans of this sort of fluffy nonsense will find themselves in safe hands, but curmudgeons will not be converted.

The plot, such as it is, continues the series' preoccupation with dance as guerilla warfare. Only this time, the theme is dance as a form of social protest, giving voice to the disenfranchised poor threatened by callous corporations. Buying all the property in Sean's neighbourhood, Anderson's re-development plans jeopardise the livelihood of his friends and family, specifically the Latin-Cuban section of the populace whose heritage is an integral part of Miami culture. It is an old plot, going back even further than black and white musical melodramas like They Shall Have Music (1939), which is part of its charm. After Emily proves her worth, donning a Phantom of the Opera mask to perform some spectacular leaps off tables at a fancy restaurant, the Mob proceed to mount their dance displays much like a heist. Director Scott Speer draws explicit parallels with heist movies as the dancers go undercover, don disguises, use hidden cameras and audacious escape routes for a quick getaway. One especially memorable sequence finds the Mob posing as living works of art at the Miami Museum of International Arts and Culture, among the most eye-catching and beautifully staged set-pieces in the series.

Much is made about the super-secret nature of the Mob and inherent danger in what they do, yet the crowds are almost always welcoming, responding with gasps or applause, and the likelihood of police locking these street-styled but, frankly clean-cut, youngsters up in jail just for dancing in public seems somewhat ridiculous. Unless the Miami Police take a hard line on such things, which seems unlikely. Late in the day series regulars Adam G. Sevani and Mari Koda make crowd-pleasing cameos as the Pirates, heroes of Step Up 3D (2010), lend their dance muscle to the Mob’s last stand. Corny as it sounds, when Sevani literally leaps onto the screen fans may well feel like cheering. While the film's anti-corporate message is hardly worthy of Ken Loach, and somewhat undercut by the coda, the utopian idealism of kids using culture rather than violence to make themselves heard is really quite endearing. Heck, by the finale, even the Mayor of Miami is on his feet.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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