It’s clearly not easy to make a movie or a mini-series chronicling the formative early days of hip-hop music, graffiti, breakdancing and jean-jacket wearing toughs, though not due to a lack of trying. There have been two distinctive options up to this point—gritty and low budget efforts such as Wild Style and Juice or campy Hollywood versions such as Beat Street and Krush Groove. Enter The Get Down, a new Netflix series which seems to be aimed at Jane Average and Joe Familiar. While I wasn’t expecting anything too bleak, the 25 minutes I forced myself to sit through makes Fame look like Taxi Driver by comparison.
Staged like a musical (only with weird CGI overlays of trains covered with pieces slipped into the background), the first episode directed by Baz Luhrmann plays like a modern-day West Side Story. After a goofy scene trying to recreate the writer’s bench from Style Wars, the lads wander deep into the Bronx to check out a new ‘burner’ and run into a bunch of kids playing dress-up…I mean a local street gang. Anyone who’s seen The Warriors will remember some cheesy looking thugs (the guys dressed as mime clowns and the dudes on rollerskates in particular), but these jokers take the cake as far as being the most non-threatening collection of people ever to wear giant sewn-on patches on the back of denim vests. It’s only the appearance of a gleefully scenery-chewing Jimmy Smits that prevented me driving the porcelain bus straight to Chunk Town.
As much as I’d like to mock this series even further, ACCLAIM isn’t paying me nearly enough to endure the entire season, so I pulled the plug. Apparently, it gets better, but life is too short for such vague promises. Now I’m no screen writer, but I have a few suggestions that I’d like to see incorporated into future attempts at making a film or telemovie about the evolution of rap: