Review: Body Rock (1984)
Chilly D (Lorenzo Lamas) is a tough but sensitive New York street kid (assuming a thirty-year-old can qualify as a "kid.") He and his friends the Body Rock Crew spend their days hanging out in a run-down basement where they put on shows which include rapping and breakdancing. The Body Rock Crew also spend a lot of time making graffiti art, and Chilly thinks they could make big bucks like Basquiat if they only had an agent. To that end, Chilly seeks out a well-to-do promoter named Terrence who he hopes will manage their artistic endeavors.
Terrence isn't too impressed with Chilly's art, but as it turns out he is looking for entertainers for a new nightclub he's opening. Chilly convinces him to give the Body Rock Crew an audition. Upon leaving the meeting, Chilly is struck with the realization that he is possibly the only member of the Crew who has no actual talent and/or skills. He goes to the Crew's youngest member, an eight-year-old breakdancing prodigy named Magick, and talks the kid into giving him some lessons.
The lessons apparently work because when Terrence and his entourage come to see the Body Rock Crew in action, Chilly is the only member who he decides to hire for his club. His lack of talent doesn't stop Chilly from becoming the main attraction at the new club, to the initial delight of his friends in Body Rock. Soon, however, Chilly is predictably swept up in a storm of ego-stroking groupies and coke-snorting financiers and he no longer has time for his old pals.
A budding relationship with a sweet girl named Darlene falls by the boards as he hooks up with a skanky artist named Claire. Claire is a member of Terrence's happy-go-lucky group of hangers-on, and her interests include drugs, booze, sex, and those bodybuilder protein shakes. Chilly makes some half-hearted attempts to keep things going with Darlene, but he has trouble resisting Claire's drug-addled advances. Finally, Darlene confronts Chilly about Claire and he's either too honest or too stupid to deny his cheating ways.
Having lost his would-be girlfriend and fallen out of favor with the Body Rock Crew, Chilly spirals into a quick depression. After a show at the club, Terrence, Claire, and the rest of their group take him to a gay bar. One of Terrence's friends is an older, balding guy named Donald who always wears a tuxedo and is often present at these after-parties. When Donald tries to kiss Chilly, Chilly freaks out and punches him.
Little does Chilly know, Donald is the guy who actually owns the club, and Chilly soon finds himself out of a job. Things look bleak, but a few encouraging words from Magick get Chilly's mojo working again. Thanks to some sloppy screenwriting, Chilly and the Body Rock Crew all show up at the club for a big event called the "Rapstravaganza." Basically, this seems to boil down to Claire rehashing one of the song-and-dance numbers from Chilly's old act.
Chilly takes offense to this blatant copyright infringement and he and the Body Rock Crew take over the stage. Donald, who is watching this unfold from the DJ booth, nearly has a stroke. He tries to pull the plug, but the crowd seems ready to tear the place apart if they don't get their daily dose of Chilly, so he has no choice but to relent. After Body Rock puts on a movie-stopping performance Darlene forgets all about Chilly's probable STDs and the two of them run off happily into the night.
As you Dregophiles already know, there was a plethora of low-budget films during the early 1980's which tried to capitalize on the popularity of breakdancing and hip-hop music. We've already examined one such movie (Breakin' 2) in some detail. It may be useful, though, to talk about Body Rock in order to illustrate just how low on the quality scale these films can go. If you have even a passing appreciation for breakdancing or rap, Body Rock will be like watching someone flush your most cherished religious text down the toilet.
This is what happens when a bunch of aging white guys try to make a film about a phenomenon that is inherently urban and, well, non-white. They obviously don't "get" it, and the results are painfully embarrassing. There are serious undertones of racism running through Body Rock - most of the black characters in the film are scary gangsters and the only black person in the Body Rock Crew's core membership is a decidedly cute and unthreatening eight-year-old.
A discussion of Body Rock's many crimes against humanity must center primarily on the main character, Chilly D. Chilly is played by Lorenzo Lamas, who made his mark in the television drama "Falcon Crest" and would later star in dozens of awful action movies. To get an idea of Mr. Lamas' portrayal of Chilly, imagine taking John Travolta's character from Saturday Night Fever, chewing him up, digesting him, and excreting him into some parachute pants.
It's pretty clear that the Travolta factor played a large part in the conception of this role, but I must point out that Travolta could dance, whereas Lamas cannot. Having Chilly admit early on to a lack of talent may have been an attempt to get around this problem, but it doesn't really make sense when Terrence selects Chilly alone to work in the club. Lorenzo's breakin' (or "breaking," as Chilly would call it) is pretty weak, but his "rapping" is truly an abomination. Honestly, the man makes Vanilla Ice look like Dr. Dre. You'll thank your lucky stars that his raps are limited to about two minutes total, but those two minutes will seem like an eternity as Chilly haphazardly navigates some of the most insipid rhymes this side of a Hallmark card. Overlooking the stupidity of his lyrics, Chilly's rhythm is completely wrong - he gropes around for the beat but never actually connects with it.
As if his so-called raps weren't torture enough, we're also subjected to Chilly's take on a "sexy" R&B ballad called "Smooth Talker" (this is during his tenure as the headliner at the club). He dresses up like the lost member of LaBelle, complete with glitter on his face, and belts out this charming little ditty with a "seductive" look on his face that had me reaching for a vomit receptacle. I was squirming uncomfortably in my seat as he breathlessly drooled out lyrics such as "I'm gonna stalk you like an animal and eat you like a cannibal." It's enough to make you wish vocal chords had never been invented. Did I mention that Chilly lives with his mother?
But maybe I'm being too hard on poor ol' Chilly D. There's plenty of blame to go around in this film. Why, the entire Body Rock Crew (save Magick, who had actual talent) deserves a good beat-down. E-Z, the resident DJ, never so much as scratches a record - he just stands on the stage carefully adjusting the positions of his turntables. Jama, the supposed rapper of the group, may be one of the few ostensibly gay rap stars of the 1980s. Which would be fine if he could rap, but sadly, his lispy rhymin' is only marginally better than Chilly's. Some of the supplemental Body Rock dancers are pretty funny, especially this doughy white guy with a curly blonde mullet and John Oates mustache who seems to go into spasms every time he takes the stage. God bless him, he was one of the few things that kept me going in this turkey.
Body Rock tried very hard to turn me against breakdancing, hip-hop, and even life itself. I'm happy to report that it didn't succeed in breaking me, but it was a little dicey for a while. This movie made me ashamed to be white (like I needed another reason), and unless you're watching it as penance for some grievous sin, I suggest you stay well away from Chilly D and the Body Rock Crew.