"The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way," we're informed at the start of dance documentary Rize. It's an assertion some may doubt when they see the movie's movers shake booty like they've got electric eels stuffed in their pants. In between the performance pieces, director David LaChapelle looks at how 'clowning' and 'krumping' evolved on the mean streets of LA in the wake of the Rodney King riots. Thankfully, the preachy vibes that surface don't drown out the pounding hip-hop rhythms.
Clowning, we learn, originated with children's entertainer Tommy The Clown (aka Tommy Johnson): a man easy to like, not least for being brave enough to walk the hood in a rainbow fright wig. Tommy's manic moves were developed into an even wilder style, krumping. Happily, the rivalry between the clowners and the krumpers doesn't lead to violence (drive-by squirtings?) but to an epic arena dance-off.
"SLOW-MO AND OILED-UP TORSOS"
LaChapelle's film isn't all colour and motion. There are moments - notably the shooting of a young schoolgirl - that throw into stark relief what the dancers are trying to transcend. Mostly, though, Rize is determined to accentuate the positive, at times laying it on as thickly as the performers' face-paint.
Moreover, with all the slow-mo and oiled-up torsos, it's often like we're watching one of LaChapelle's pop promos (it was while directing Christina Aguilera's Dirrty that he discovered clowning) rather than a serious social portrait. Still, for all its mis-steps, Rize gets by on enough jumping, pumping energy to fuel the national grid.