Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Make Your Move

For F*** Magazine


Director: Duane Adler
Cast:   BoA, Derek Hough, Izabella Miko, Wesley Jonathan, Will Yun Lee
Genre: Musical, Drama
Run Time: 110 mins
Opens: 14 November 2013
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language)

         We’ve all heard of the Die Hard on an X  formula: Speed is Die Hard on a bus, Under Siege is Die Hard on a battleship, Sudden Death is Die Hard in a hockey stadium, Air Force One is Die Hard on the Presidential plane and so on. Here’s a formula even more popular than that one: Romeo and Juliet with an X. Gnomeo and Juliet is Romeo and Juliet with garden gnomes, Upside Down is Romeo and Juliet with metaphysical fantasy, Warm Bodies is Romeo and Juliet with zombies and The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride is Romeo and Juliet with anthropomorphic safari animals. Make Your Move is Romeo and Juliet with dancing, in New York. Okay, so maybe West Side Story has laid claim to that premise.

            Donny (Hough) is a New Orleans dancer fresh out of jail and looking to make a new start. He evades his parole officer (Dan Lauria) and travels to New York, where his foster brother Nick (Jonathan) has set up a hot new underground club called Static. Nick’s ex-partner-turned-rival Kaz (Lee) has established the swanky joint Oto in competition; both no longer on good terms. Kaz’s sister Aya fronts a crew called Cobu which incorporates taiko drums into their dance act. Naturally, Donny is smitten and falls headlong for Aya, their budding romance in defiance of their respective brothers’ endeavours. Complicating matters is Michael (Jefferson Brown), a sleazy Wall Street broker who co-owns Oto with Kaz and who has his eye on Aya.

            Writer-director Duane Adler is no stranger to dance movies, having previously written Save the Last Dance, Step-Up, Make It Happen and The Way She Moves. These films are known for great dancing and simplistic, teen-friendly storylines. Make Your Move is consistent with those entries in Adler’s filmography in that respect. However, this Korean co-production (made with the involvement of S. M. Entertainment) deserves credit for upping the visibility of Asian talent in Hollywood without over-politicizing the matter.

            The film takes a while to get into gear, opening with a series of unwieldy exposition dumps. You’d think the makers of a dance movie would know the importance of showing and not telling. Some of the dialogue is also rather cringe-worthy. However, this reviewer has no complaints about the dance sequences, choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo, Yako Miyamoto and Nick Gonzalez. These manage to be energetic and elegant when required and are enhanced by Gregory Middleton’s beautiful cinematography, the lighting and composition in a good number of shots pleasantly artful. There’s fire dancing and confetti raining down to justify the use of 3D; we saw the 2D version.

            Derek Hough, Dancing with the Stars pro and brother to Julianne, appears to want to follow in his sister’s footloose footsteps in pursuing a film career. He is very much a cookie cutter pretty boy and more acting lessons are in order, but his physicality and impressive footwork are definitely up to par. K-pop superstar BoA makes her Hollywood film debut here, busting a move, beating a drum (she is Beat of Angel after all) and looking great while at it. Her line delivery is stilted in parts and she has a tendency to sound whiny, but the effort she’s put in is evident and she’s able to muster a decent amount of chemistry with her co-star.

            Will Yun Lee, last seen as Harada in The Wolverine, has been working steadily in Hollywood, with stints on TV shows like Witchblade, Bionic Woman and Hawaii Five-0 as well as in films like Die Another Day and the Red Dawn remake. It’s nice to see him not playing a North Korean military figure and he does a good job as the concerned older brother and savvy business owner. The film touches on the practical concerns of running a club, grounding the story in some reality. Wesley Jonathan, whose previous dance movie experience comprises Steppin: The Movie and B-girl, generates adequate brotherly banter and tension with Hough as our Benvolio/Mercutio mashup analogue. Jefferson Brown chews the dance club scenery as a supremely slappable slimy corporate type, scoring “villain you love to hate” points.

            Make Your Move is corny and cheesy – at one point, BoA does a “dance of angst” – but it’s corny and cheesy in the honoured “nobody puts Baby in a corner” tradition. There’s an earnestness beneath the “star-crossed lovers, yo” story we’ve seen hundreds of times before and yes, while it is an excuse to string together a series of dance numbers, at least there’s a story to begin with here. There’s enough in Make Your Move to appeal to both the American and Asian markets (look out for K-pop star Jung Yunho’s cameo) and as far as silly romantic flicks go, you could do worse.

SUMMARY: If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief from the nightclub rafters, Make Your Move manages to be charming and visually engaging in spite of a plot that’s been used a thousand times since Billy Shakes popularized it with his obscure play.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 


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