NY TIMES: Review: ‘Bodied,’ a Shockingly Funny Battle Rap Satire

NY TIMES: Review: ‘Bodied,’ a Shockingly Funny Battle Rap Satire

Calum Worthy, center, in “Bodied.”CreditCreditYouTube Originals/Neon

Bodied    NYT Critic's Pick    Directed by Joseph Kahn
    Comedy, Drama, Music    R    2 hours

Bodied    NYT Critic's Pick    Directed by Joseph Kahn
    Comedy, Drama, Music    R    2 hours

By Jeannette Catsoulis

With visuals as kinetic as its language, Joseph Kahn’s “Bodied” is an outrageously smart, shockingly funny satire of P.C. culture whose words gush so quickly you’ll want to see it twice.
Set in the world of battle rap where combatants square off to exchange what amounts to exquisitely tuned insult poetry, the story (by Alex Larsen, a.k.a. Kid Twist, a 10-year veteran of the battle rap scene) follows Adam (Calum Worthy), a gawky grad student and a paperwhite audience surrogate. Researching rap’s use of the N-word, Adam is entranced by the vim and creativity of the performers and their utter lack of linguistic inhibition. But when he discovers his own talent for the form, his enthusiasm and naïveté threaten not just his relationship with his uptight girlfriend and culturally sensitive cohort, but his academic future to boot.

Sweaty and swift, “Bodied” is the third feature from the South Korean director Joseph Kahn, who understands that a movie about words also has to gladden the eyes. To that end, Matt Wise’s camera ricochets among the actors — including the magnificent Shoniqua Shandai as a mouthy force of nature who owns every man she battles — and slams from one scene to another with unruly energy. Quieter moments, especially in the sensitively drawn connection between Adam and his rap mentor (a terrific Jackie Long), allow the movie to explore the complexity of cultural interaction with more subtlety than we’ve come to expect from our modern comedies.

Though losing some momentum in the middle, “Bodied” mostly maintains an irresistible, deliriously offensive roll, jabbing sharply at racism and misogyny with rhymes that spark and fizz. The very opposite of a niche movie, it insists that only when we retreat to tribes do we risk belonging nowhere at all.
BodiedNYT Critic's Pick

Director    Joseph Kahn

Writer    Alex Larsen

Stars    Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Rory Uphold, Jonathan Park, Walter Perez

Rating    R

Running Time    2 hours

Genres    Comedy, Drama, Music

Rated R for, you got it, language. Running time: 2 hours.