There are few things in the world that bother me more than censorship. Maybe it’s a privileged mindset that comes with being an American, but I’m a strong supporter of freedom of speech. This is especially passionate when it comes to art, particularly in film and music. Do I find some things offensive? Yes, but then I just change the channel and find something more to my liking. There’s something to learn in everything that strikes a nerve. To be offensive means to hit an emotional spot. While today’s world is often referred to “woke” or “cancel culture,” censorship goes back and is just too broad of a word to even grasp in one document. However, in 1994, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was imposed in order to ban rave parties across the UK. This was more specific to social gatherings with music featuring “repetitive beats.” Until I saw BEATS, my ignorance prevented me from ever knowing about such a law which is incredibly stupid. BEATS, on the other hand, is not a stupid movie.
Johnno (Cristian Ortega) is moving out of town soon with his mother and cop stepdad whom he hates. Johnno is a good kid, but very straight-laced and the kind of guy who doesn’t stand up for himself. His best friend, Spanner (Lorn MacDonald) also gets pushed around but is more foul and free-spirited. Johnno’s parents can’t stand Spanner and see him as nothing but trouble. Set during the Act mentioned before, the boys hear about an underground rave and decide to have one last crazy night together.
BEATS is about many things: censorship is the most obvious, but the film is also heavy on the nostalgia by managing to score big electronic dance artists like The Prodigy and Orbital. BEATS shows how bonds form in a communal experience brought together by music. Johnno and Spanner are miserable in their personal lives, but find solace in their love for the genre. This party is what will keep them going. The whole illegal aspect gives it all a whole anti-establishment vibe especially when other characters are introduced who want the authorities to know that they are being given the middle finger.
The Blu-ray release features commentary with director Brian Welsh and writer Kieran Hurley. There’s a short but effective making-of featurette with interviews of the cast and crew. It turns out this was originally a play by Hurley but eventually turned into a film with help of executive producer Steven Soderbergh. The biggest draw for this home release is the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. A movie all about music better have a great sound mix and BEATS delivers. The dialogue scenes are clear, but when the music kicks in, all the surrounding speakers come to life. The mix allows viewers to become part of the party and dance along.
OCN Distribution is representing Music Box Selects which is a brand new home video library from independent film distribution company Music Box Films. While the Blu-ray for BEATS is now available everywhere, right now a special slipcover edition is available exclusively through Vinegar Syndrome.