Shady Films & YouTube Premium explore the world of battle rap in the new film Bodied from director Joseph Kahn. Produced by Hip Hop superstar Eminem, Bodied is the comedic story of Adam Merkin (Calum Worthy) a California grad student who has an obsession with battle rap. Adam decides he wants to write his thesis on battle rap and the use of the N-word. Adam is thrust into the world when local champion Behn Grymm (Jackie Long) decides to not only take Adam under his wing but also help Adam with his thesis.
Despite the reluctance of his scholar father Professor Merkin (Anthony Michael Hall) and his girlfriend Maya (Rory Uphold), Adam decides to pursue battle rap and slowly rises up the ranks of the underground battle rap scene. While Adam has a natural talent for battle rap primarily due to his book smarts and knowledge of battle rap, he slowly begins to lose his way. While Bodied will surely draw comparisons to Eminem’s semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile, Bodied finds its own strength by adding various layers to Adam’s arc.
Joseph Kahn and first time writer Alex Laren’s script smartly touches on culture apportion in Hip Hop addition to political correctness. Sitting in the theater and watching the film as Adam battles various non-white opponents, I couldn’t help but wonder if these jokes would be safe in the work place? The message comes across strong and there was a moment in one of Adam’s battles, where I personally felt that he went too FAR. On the other hand, are there really rules in battle rap? Those are the questions that Bodied has the viewers ask themselves.
In terms of the acting, I respect Joseph Kahn’s choice to use unknown for the lead role. I was unfamiliar with Calum Worthy’s work which allowed me to become invested in Adam’s character. Jackie Long who’s primarily known for his comedic work was also great as Behn Grymm. As talented as Behn Grymm is, he deals with his own struggles and own secrets, and gives Jackie Long a chance to flex his dramatic muscle. The cast also features supporting roles from real life battle rappers Dumbfounded, Hollow da Don and Dizaster as well as an extended cameo from radio host Charlamagne tha God. All four do great in the film.
Joseph Kahn who has over one hundred music video direction credits to his name, brings a concert atmosphere to the battle scenes. One of the cool tricks, Kahn uses before each battle is a title card to introduce the battle rappers. Kahn also wisely uses special effects to showcase some of the punch that rappers will deliver throughout the film.
If I had one compliment about Bodied, it would have to be a plot twist which involves the characters of Behn Grymm and Adam. While I was hoping the film wouldn’t go that route it does. Without going into spoilers, the twist ends up hurting the overall impact for the film has for me.
With its fiery battle rap scenes and heart Bodiedis the perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the battle rap scene.
Final Grade: A-