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Featured DVD Review: Step Off

March 13th, 2011

Step Off - Buy from Amazon

Step Off, a.k.a., Battle, is the latest Lionsgate direct-to-DVD release to land on my desk. Many of these are in the Mixed Martial Arts genre; in fact, there are a number of trailers for those films that play before the movie. However, as the trailer says, it's from one of the producers of You Got Served, so you can probably figure out its not set in the world of martial arts, but in the equally competitive world of hip-hop.

The Movie

Conrad Clifton stars as Jackson "Rippa" Wave. He's taking part in the Beat Battle, a competition for hip-hop artists looking to break into the music business. His main competition is The Maestro (Errol Sadler) but their rivalry has been one-sided up to this point. We also meet Monique (Onira Tares) a documentarian covering the musical scene. After Rippa gets knocked out in the first round, he thinks the fix is in and blows off his manager, Jay (Chris Burns), and the interview he set up with Monique.

We soon find out why he might be short on patience. He needs $2000 by the end of the week to cover a student loan, or he's going to get kicked out of college. He can't deal with a crooked game. His manager tries to convince him he could use the publicity, even if the Monique is just going to film school, but he's not going for it. Troubles continue to pile up when he loses his job, needs to cover child support, gets his music stolen by an unscrupulous producer, and finally his music equipment stolen.

After all of that, will he be able to remember what the music is all about and win the tournament and the $10,000 that goes with it?

You won't be surprised by the answer to that. Predictability is certainly an issue. Also, Rippa is such a unrelenting ass for much of the movie that it is hard to cheer for him through his troubles. Sure, the competitions seem to be less than honest, with his main rival filling the crowd with shills, while Rippa is a victim of robbery in more than one way, but by the third of fourth time he acted out, I no longer cared. The competitions are hardly cinematic and for the most part, we just see them press play. There's no dancing, no light show, no singing or anything that's visually intriguing, just arm waving to try and get the crowd into it. Finally, the budget for this movie was likely very tiny, at least I assume so, as it felt like an ultra-low-budget production. The film looked cheap, there were flaws in the print from time to time, the lighting was bad, sound was bad, and some of the acting was suspect. (A few of the cast have worked in a number of movies and TV shows on the other side of the camera.)

Some of the music was good, but that doesn't make up for a story we've seen done before, and done much better.

The Extras

Extras are better than expected with a making featurette, deleted / extended scenes, outtakes, and a beat box sampler with four songs.

The Verdict

Step Off's target audience is limited to fans of the particular genre of hip-hop, and even then they must be very forgiving of a script that is loaded with cliches and an execution that is hampered by a low budget. If that describes you, give the DVD a rental. Otherwise, you can safely let it pass by.

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