Step Up Revolution
Directed by Scott Speer. Starring Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Cleopatra Coleman, Misha Gabriel Hamilton, Mia Maestro, Adam G. Sevani, Megan Boone, Tommy Dewey, Morgane Slemp. Written by Amanda Brody, from characters created by Duane Adler.
Uh-oh, I thought while watching the opening dance number in Step Up Revolution (AKA Step Up 4: Miami Heat), a South Beach street dance that is so dizzyingly shot and edited that we lose all sense of continuity in the choreography and performances. Lessons learned in Step Up 3D, the unexpectedly solid previous film in the series, seem to have been abandoned.
Revolution is also in presented in 3D, but the filmmakers don’t have a good feel for the technology; unlike the previous film, which incorporated a single, unbroken take among its dance numbers, the action here is fast and furious. That’s bad enough, but with the added (faux) dimension, the eyes have additional difficulty adjusting to each new cut.
In static shots, the 3D is fine – but during scenes of dance and motion, the action becomes a blur. There’s also what appears to be aerial stock footage of Miami (or second unit footage that wasn’t shot with a 3D camera) that has been post-converted into 3D and looks atrocious. Step Up Revolution is also screening in a 2D version, which is how I’d recommend catching it.
Not that I’d really recommend catching it at all, but you know what you’re getting into with these movies. The joy of the previous film is gone, but that one seems to have been a fluke; this is at least as good as the first two movies, and a couple notches above the awful StreetDance flicks.
And there are a couple knockout dance numbers, which make up for the initial sequence and raise expectations: the first is a dynamite sequence at a gallery opening, where the art pieces literally come to life, and the second is a memorable ‘protest art’ number at an office building, featuring dancers decked out in black suits and bowler hats.
The finale, however, really drops the ball: an uninspired sequence set at a shipping yard amongst freight containers, notable only for the cameo participation of Adam G. Sevani, star of the previous two films. And there’s an uncomfortable sequence that has eerie similarities to the Dark Knight Rises cinema shooting, in which dancers wearing gas masks toss smoke bombs into a crowd. Bad timing.
There’s a story hammered in here somewhere too, as if we cared. No joke: the big real estate magnate wants to demolish Pop’s nightclub, so the gang bands together to (initially) raise money in a YouTube competition (first channel to 10,000,000 views nets $100,000 – their big competition is a cat rolling on the floor), and eventually to raise awareness for their cause. The magnate is going to destroy the entire neighborhood, but we really only get to see the nightclub.
The magnate is played by Peter Gallagher, who lends the role, if not quite a quiet dignity, a kind of what-is-he-doing-in-this empathy. I like how they made the character reasonable and balanced, but he’s way too boring to cut it as a villain we actively root against.
You may not be surprised to learn that the magnate’s daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick) is a talented dancer who falls in with the guerilla street dance crew to protest her father’s planned actions. The street dancers, calling themselves The Mob and headed by Sean (Ryan Guzman), create carefully-staged flash mobs involving not just dance, but also music, stuntwork, street art, and elaborate props, which seem to cost a lot more than the $100K the group sets out to win.
Other characters barely make an impact, but watch out for choreographer/So You Think You Can Dance judge Mia Michaels as the instructor at a prestigious dance institute, who appears dazed and not-quite-there throughout the film.
While the plotting – which includes a heavy dose of Dirty Dancing along with the save-the-venue storyline typical of films – is nothing special, it is interesting to see the film touch on so many timely subjects: flash mobs, street art, even the dubstep-influenced soundtrack. Of course, this makes Revolution even more a product of its time than the other films in this series. Fans should be happy with the finished product here, but with a serious downgrade in 3D filmmaking, Step Up 4 fails to live up to the standards set by the previous film.