Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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You Got Served would be a pretty impressive film, if not for minor concerns like its plot, acting, dialogue, structure, script, and casting. In other words, everything besides its dancing, which is as witty and exacting as the rest of the film is fumbling and slapdash. Thankfully, David LaChapelle's manic new dance documentary Rize bears the same relationship to You Got Served that the seminal hip-hop doc Style Wars bears to cheesy early breaksploitation and graffitisploitation joints. It's got all the concentrated energy and excitement of a thrilling new subculture without the clumsiness that invariably accompanies a major studio's cynical attempts to exploit hot new trends.

The feature-film debut of prominent music-video director and fashion photographer David LaChapelle, Rize documents a peculiar regional offshoot of hip-hop dance: Clowning, pioneered by a gent named Tommy The Clown, is a relatively recent southern California street sensation that combines aggressive dance with face-paint and pantomime. The story of clowning is largely one of mongrelization and cross-pollination, so it makes sense that it would give birth to krumping, a variation that puts an emphasis on speed and convulsive movement. The conflict between krumpers and clowning enthusiasts, as embodied by the bad blood simmering between Tommy The Clown and his disciples-turned-rivals, gives Rize what little structure it has.

LaChapelle's direction betrays his background in videos and fashion magazines. His head-nodding, deeply rhythmic film, with its pounding, nonstop soundtrack and vibrant colors, owes more to videos than to conventional documentaries, and it favors striking imagery and visceral excitement over storytelling. Clowning and krumping both have strong cathartic elements that afford the dispossessed an opportunity to transform their rage and despair into furious, hypnotic streaks of movement and motion. LaChapelle never tires of simply watching the film's telegenic, scantily clad dancers krump and clown their hearts out, and it's easy to see why. Rize kicks off with a sustained blast of energy that'd be nearly impossible to maintain for the length of a full feature. Sure enough, the film slows down as it hits the home stretch. And by the time the gospel music kicks in and folks starts talking about "Krumpin' for Jesus," it becomes apparent that LaChapelle has a "positive" message that he wouldn't mind shoving down the audience's throat. Rize eventually gets a little preachy and sentimental, but a little sermonizing seems a small price to pay for such an industrial jolt of kinetic electricity.