Scott Speer (director)
Universal Pictures UK (studio)
99 mins (length)
03 December 2012 (released)
02 December 2012
Step Up 4: Miami Heat (also known as Step Up 4: Revolution in the states) has the distinction of not being directed by Jon Chu (director of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) like its two predecessors. Stepping up (sorry!) to direct the fourth instalment of the franchise is Scott Speer, a veteran of music videos for artists like Paris Hilton and Big Boi.
The acting is of course perfunctory, but that's not why this franchise is still running strong. I suspect that the attractive cast and sexy dancing to timely music has helped generate billions of dollars. Having said that, Kathryn McCormick does have screen presence and a promising future should she wish to step... ok, I'm going to stop with the step up puns now.
For anyone morbidly curious about the thin strand linking each dance sequence, Step Up 4 follows the exploits of a loveable gang called The Mob, headed by Sean (Ryan Guzman). Rather than bloodthirsty gangsters on vacation from Baltimore, they are in fact a flash mob.
After three films you have to wonder if these films have anything new to offer. It's usually the same story conflicts: young adults wanting to make a living by dancing and older adults standing in the way. A privileged girl and underprivileged guy. Sean and Emily (McCormick) both have their reasons for entering a looming dance contest. The story even throws in an evil renovator threatening to bulldoze over Sean's neighbourhood.
Which is all a joke of course, because Hollywood's idea of being on the wrong side of the tracks is living in relative comfort in a nice spacious house, and owning a boat.
The dancing is of course fine, but somewhat predictable. By the fourth entry in the franchise, you would hope for more creativity, and things we haven't seen. Step Up 4 does make a bit of an effort admittedly. The best example of this takes place in an art gallery that is invaded by the mob and descends into dub-step with Bjork-like visuals. At one point the film even throws in a dub-step remix of a Thom Yorke track!
The story attempts to claw its way out of mediocrity by making a point that flash mobs can have more use than being a way to just have fun and cause mayhem, but it's so hackneyed that only very impressionable teens will come away with anything other than epic eye-rolling.
The last massive dance sequence is a let down because it has no theme driving it. The Mob has an opportunity to carry out its protest in front of the public at a most critical moment, but what we get is an utterly random montage of flailing limbs and acrobatics that 'saves' the day simply because its the climactic dance by definition. “It's pretty clear the community here has something to say to you” a character quips at the end. I don’t think even the actor saying the line knew what though.