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HipBeat seems like a call to arms in a fight against “the struggle”. Angus, or “Angry”, for short, is upset at the Establishment for oppressing people around the world. Along the way, he falls in love while trying to figure out where he fits in the world. If a film is going to go all in on a message, it has to have strong characters to deliver it. Angry may want to make the world a better place to live, but he is definitely not starting with himself. The fact he is in love does not stop him from finding other people -LOTS of other people – to have sexual relations with.
HipBeat is a movie about self-discovery, so it makes sense on the surface. And that is the film’s biggest problem: it never goes beneath the surface. So, instead of watching a young person struggle with their identity, the audience sees a kid who is having their cake and eating it too. It is hard to get behind someone talking about society’s evils when they seem to have little interest in improving themselves.
This becomes more of a problem the longer the story progresses. The vast majority of the runtime is spent with Angry. This only highlights how shallow he is. His cause is vaguely defined at best and his character and identity are almost impossible to pin down. There are times when it truly looks like he wants to be a better version of himself, but these moments are fleeting and never amount to much.
This is a shame since the rest of the movie works well. Some of the shots scream “arthouse film”, but in this case, they are more of a feature than a bug. Paired with its infectious soundtrack, the look and sound of HipBeat get across a feeling of change and discovery in a way that the writing and Angry are never able to.
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