For the first hour, I understand the rapturous feedback -- standing ovations and everything! -- that Bodied won when it played the Toronto and Fantastic Fest film festivals a year ago. Right from the jump, we're treated to a hilarious depiction of battle-rap culture that's both intensely verbose and hysterically absurd. We first see our protagonist, grad student Adam Merkin (American Vandal's Calum Worthy), at a grimy rap battle, trying -- and failing -- to teach his pedantic girlfriend (Rory Uphold) how to overlook the misogyny, violence and homophobia these rappers spew and appreciate it for the wordy, witty spectacle it is.
Since he's writing a thesis paper on the use of the N-word in battle rap, he goes to a master, Behn Grymm (Jackie Long), for research. For some reason, Grymm ropes Merkin into an impromptu rap battle (Merkin's opponent's name: Billy Pistolz) and, after discovering how good he is at incisive wordplay, gets immediately hooked on the competitions.
Lord only knew there was so much to make fun of in rap culture, which Bodied does with proudly redonkulous fervor. It's such fun watching this profane silliness unfold that it pissed me off when Bodied took a sharp turn in the second half. While the movie does address white people's thorny relationship with rap and cultural appropriation, it demonstrates how delicate satirizing that can be when it gets kind of serious near the end -- a long, long end -- and suggests that being the best at battle rap can also mean being the worst.
Director Joseph Kahn (who cowrote the script with actual battle rapper Alex “Kid Twist” Larsen), a man who directed many a hip-hop video in his time, knows exactly what cliches and tropes need to be mocked
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