Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Scott Speer
Stars: Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Peter Gallagher, Misha Gabriel, Cleopatra Coleman, Adam G Sevari, Michael Langebeck, Stephen Boss, Mia Michaels.
The fourth in the successful Step Up series of dance movies relocates the action to Florida, but the formula remains pretty similar. As with other films in the series Step Up Miami Heat (aka Step Up Revolution in overseas territories) offers a contrast between classical dance and the more energetic hip hop style of the streets. At heart it is also a familiar love story between two dancers from different backgrounds and different sides of the tracks.
Emily Anderson (played by former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Kathryn McCormick) is the daughter of multi-millionaire property developer Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher). Emily hopes to be a dancer with the prestigious Wynwood Contemporary Dance Company (run by Mia Michaels, a former judge on So You Think You Can Dance) and has come to audition. Sean (former model Ryan Guzman, making his film debut here) is the leader of a dance crew who stage flash mob dance routines on the streets of Miami. They film their routines and upload them onto You Tube in the hopes of reaching 10 million hits and winning a cash prize.
When Sean and Emily meet via a sizzling dirty dance on the beach during a party at the hotel where Sean works, the attraction is obvious. Emily falls in with Sean’s crew. But when Anderson announces plans for a massive redevelopment of the run down area of Miami’s foreshore that is home to Sean and his gang, the mob decide that it is time to leave performance art behind and practice a little protest art. This leads to conflict between Emily and Sean, Emily and her father, and even Sean and his best friend.
The film has been directed with energy by Scott Speer, a director of music videos making his feature film debut here. Karsten Gopinath’s cinematography is good, and makes good use of the Miami locations.
The generic good looks of the young, largely unknown but enthusiastic cast compensate somewhat for their lack of acting chops and their wooden delivery of dialogue. Gallagher seems typecast here as the greedy villain of the piece, and seems to be coasting on autopilot. And some characters from previous Step Up movies, notably Adam Sevari’s Moose, pop up briefly during the climactic dance sequence where the mob disrupts Anderson’s plans for redevelopment.
While Step Up Miami Heat takes a slightly different approach, the story from playwright Amanda Brody is not particularly original or exciting. The film tries to draw a parallel between community action and social justice, but the message seems to have been compromised. In the end, there is only a small difference between a compromise and a sell-out.
However, the energetic and imaginative dance routines are quite spectacular and the best part of the cliched film. The two standout sequences are the superbly choreographed routine on the streets of Miami using classic cars as props as well as heaps of dancers, and a wonderful sequence in an art gallery where the mob bring some installations to life. But as is the norm with many contemporary movies, the rapid cross cut editing creates an artificial sense of energy and movement while diluting some of the natural spectacle and rhythm.
Nonetheless Step Up 4 is arguably the best film of the series, and fans of dance movies will find much to enjoy here.