Review: Words fly in ‘Bodied,’ Joseph Kahn’s provocative and entertaining ode to battle rap
Pound for pound, you’d be hard pressed to find a more purely entertaining movie this fall than Joseph Kahn’s gleeful love letter to battle rap, “Bodied.” Props are due to writer Alex Larsen, a.k.a. Kid Twist, a Canadian battle rapper whose life story loosely inspires the tale of Adam (Calum Worthy), an aggressively woke white Berkeley student who enters the battle-rap scene by way of his thesis on the use of the N-word. It’s participant observation — an intense form of data collection — with the self-styled ethnographer falling down the rabbit hole and emerging completely changed.
Larsen’s script is a blistering deconstruction of identity politics that may leave your head spinning. Adam, the son of a lit professor (Anthony Michael Hall) and cowed by his militantly feminist vegan girlfriend (Rory Uphold), finds freedom of expression when the politically correct gloves come off.
But is there a limit? How do systems of power work in a battle where a rapper, with the goal of roasting an opponent to a crisp, only has appearances and assumptions to work with?
Kahn applies his maximalist style, using text and animation to bring a visual spark to the lyrical flow. From crisp academic arguments to sick burns, words spew, stutter, and startle, and as delivered by a totally committed Worthy, a soulful Jackie Long, and a posse of actors and rappers from the scene, the wordplay is dizzying, mesmerizing and intoxicating.
Rated: R, for strong language and sexual content throughout, some drug use and brief nudity
Running time: 2 hours
Playing: Starts Nov. 2, AMC Burbank; also available on YouTube Premium Nov. 28
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