Dance becomes Revolution!A dance troop in Miami known only as The Mob stages more and more outlandish routines in the hope of getting the hits to earn a prize from YouTube.
There’s something oddly reassuring about the Step Up series. Since its inception in 2006, the story has remained essentially unchanged – a boy and girl from different sides of the tracks, two types of dance colliding, a crisis and lots and lots of dancing. It’s a basic and familiar frame which gives the films a structure as the dance sequences themselves become more and more outlandish, something which Step Up 4 takes to considerable heights.
Directed this time by Scott Speer who takes over from Jon M. Chu – Step Up 4 is formulaic, poorly written, badly plotted and contains some of the least compelling acting you’re likely to see this year. But, no matter how awkward the supposedly heartfelt exchanges get or how predictable each beat becomes, the film remains essentially impervious to criticism.
Partly that’s because Step Up isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. The filmmakers themselves are openly aware of how preposterous the whole experience is and instead of spoofing the genre they choose to embrace it. And then there’s the dancing.Step Up 4 goes all out in search of spectacle. The flash mob mentality allows for a more large scale and almost militant aspect to the set pieces, something which is borne out in the revolutionary aspect of the narrative, and it makes for some truly arresting moments. The Mob work to stage public displays in pursuit of 10 million hits on YouTube and these scenes are staged by the filmmakers more in the style of a set piece in an action film.
There’s even an element of planning to these moments which borrows elements from the heist movie genre as the crew bust some moves in a restaurant, at a downtown office and (in perhaps the most stunning sequence) bring the art to life in a stuffy museum. These scenes are often extended and virtually plotless, and the lack of regular competitive dance offs gives the filmmakers a chance to experiment with different locations, styles and some explosive special effects.
2010s Step Up 3D was the first to introduce the extra dimension and the frontal presentation of the dance offs, coupled with some long takes and impressive dance numbers made it one of the better 3D movies released so far. Step Up 4 doesn’t quite have the same impact for a numbers of reasons – the sequences are heavily edited and generally less camera centric but there’s enough extraneous smoke and lens flare in the air for some stand out moments.Step Up 4 is a frightfully stupid film at times, with a plot that makes little sense and some appalling performances but none of these issues will matter to dance fans out there. And, when it comes down to the high octane moments, the film delivers like few others in the genre, all the way up to a revolution-by-dance finale.