Although its title sounds like it belongs to a zombie flick, Joseph Kahn’s (Torque, Detention) Bodied is an unrelenting portrait of race relations in contemporary America. The film uses the arena of battle rap culture as its setting, but it has just as much in common thematically with All About Eve as it does 8 Mile. An aesthetically grandiose undertaking, Joseph Kahn takes his music video sensibilities and gracefully expands them into the realm of the cinematic, deconstructing the world he’s been enmeshed in for so many years.
Our entry point is Adam (Calum Worthy), a dweeby grad student who is fascinated by the modern poetry of hip-hop. In his dissection of the use of the n-word in the battle rap scene, Adam actually becomes a rapper himself, embracing biting one-liners that probe the ingrained conversation around misogyny and racism within his newly adopted culture. As he decimates his foes with his sick flow, Adam quickly loses sight of what initially attracted him to the ingenuity of language.
“In his dissection of the use of the n-word…Adam actually becomes a rapper himself…”
Anything goes in the ring, and Kahn uses battle raps to tackle a variety of issues head-on, with intricate rhymes paving the way for cutting social commentary. As we dive deeper into this world, revelations arise that contradict our racial expectations, but they aren’t nearly as unsettling as our reaction to them. Purposefully ruffling feathers, Khan calls out a culture that he feels has weaponized being offended. He isn’t walking on eggshells for anyone; this is a rare uncompromised vision.
Dense in content but also delivered at an intense pace – much like the raps themselves – the script by Kahn and Alex Larsen (a prominent Toronto rapper under the moniker of Kid Twist) balances the harsh directness of rap lyricism with academic analysis, without alienating fans of either realm. As a result, we are taken directly into the mind of Adam, as his observations instantaneously form into fluid lines of potent insults. Together, Larsen and Kahn carefully craft an arena where we’re invested in the protagonist, even as we’re constantly shown how despicable he’s capable of being.
“…spastic camera movements, violent smash cuts, and extreme close-ups, Bodied is dripping with vibrant visual style.”
With spastic camera movements, violent smash cuts, and extreme close-ups, Bodied is dripping with vibrant visual style. Though it hangs around for a tad too long after making its point (stretching itself a little thin in the process), the execution of Kahn’s creative ambition is a sight to be seen. His brilliant satire of political correctness – and even of other tone-deaf jabs at PC culture – is sure to develop a devoted following.
Bodied (2018) Directed by Joseph Kahn. Written By Joseph Kahn, Alex Larsen. Starring Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Rory Uphold, Charlamagne Tha God.
8 out of 10