Breakin’ is one of those movies that nobody has seen, yet everybody seems to know. There are two Breakin’ movies and both have their own legacy. This movie is mostly known for having Jean-Claude van Damme as an unnamed extra clearly visible dancing in the background during a dance off. The sequel has become a punchline for unnecessary sequels.
Breakin’ is one of those typical 80s movies that capitalizes on a fad. Rad took on BMX-riding, Perfect the aerobics craze, Thrashin’ revolved around skateboarding and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie brought the infamous cards to life. Breakin’ is low budget studio Cannon’s attempt to cash in on the breakdance craze of 1983/84. And it’s a literal cash grab. There are all sorts of behind the scenes stories about how this movie was raced through production and released into cinemas so it would be the first movie about break-dancing. They succeeded and Breakin’ was released a full month before Orion Pictures’ Beat Street and did significantly better.
The story of Breakin’ is a simple as you would expect. Struggling young jazz dancer Kelly meets up with two break-dancers; Ozone and Turbo. Together they become the sensation of the street crowds. But the real challenge lies in winning a dance competition. Or even being eligible to enter since the competition requirements are traditional, socially respected styles of dance.
The flimsy story line is an excuse to tie a sheer abundance of dance scenes together. Rarely does the soundtrack not feature a song or beat characters on screen can jam to. Breakin’ provides the audience with 80 minutes of popping and locking. In classical dance movie tradition even fights are resolved by dance offs.
The casts consists of professional dancers rather actual actors. Kelly “Special K” Bennett is played by Lucinda Dickey. A girl who only has a handful of movies to her name including both Breakin’ movies, but also the cult classic Ninja III: The Domination. Her two main co-stars are Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quiñones and Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers as Ozone and Turbo. It’s not often you see people having their nick names listed as well on the credits.
This is probably because both of them were featured in a documentary called Breakin’ ‘n’ Enterin’ about break dancing. This documentary also features Ice-T who also has a small part in the movie as the MC at a club
The acting by these three is rather hokey. But they are better than most of the supporting cast which also mostly consists of dancers. Famous character actor Christopher McDonald also has a small role as James, an agent friend of Kelly who thinks the troupe shows promise.
Despite not being the greatest actress Lucinda Dickey has enough screen presence with her cute looks, tight outfits and excellent dancing skills to carry the movie as the central lead. Quiñones and Chambers are also enigmatic dancers, but this being a breakdance movie their dance scenes become repetitious by the time the movie reaches the third act. Luckily the third act manages to inject some fresh ideas which I won’t spoil for you.
The highlight of the movie is Chambers’ solo with a broom, which injects some never explained magic into the movie. It’s one of the rare moments the movie actually tries to do more than just being a simple dance movie.
Breakin’ is not a great movie and there are plenty of better dance movies out there. But it’s unabashed on how it capitalizes on a trend and milks it for an almost full 80 minutes. If you’re coming for break-dancing and popping and locking Breakin’ will surely satisfy your needs.