Movie Sleuth Exclusives: Dance With Your Mind: The FP2: Beats of Rage (2019)

In 2011, the high-concept/low-budget film The FP was released, and it garnered a huge cult following. The idea of post-apocalyptic gang fights being conducted through dance battles with a game called Beat-Beat Revelation is incredibly ridiculous, but is executed with such seriousness and gravitas that you can't help but get invested in the plight of the denizens of Frazier Park (and their duck population). As popular as the original film was, it unfortunately wasn't very profitable for the writer/director Jason Trost and so it was difficult for him to get funding for the sequels he had planned. Luckily with the help of Indiegogo and crowdfunding he was able to get a whole fucking pile of Lincolns and finally make a sequel.

In Beats of Rage Frazier Park is again under attack, this time by an Immortan Joe style leader known as AK-47 (Mike O'Gorman) who has been decimating opponents at Beat-Beat Revelation and stealing their souls after he wins. JTRO (Jason Trost) has hung up his Beat-Beat boots since the end of the last movie, and is a grizzled and disenfranchised shopkeeper who hasn't been keeping up with the latest developments. His trusty hype man KCDC (Art Hsu) has to convince JTRO that his powers must be used for the good of everyone and so starts their journey to free Frazier Park from the iron hand of AK-47.

While the first film was somewhat grounded, Beats of Rage takes a more surreal and mythical approach to the mythology and also leans much more heavily into the video game aesthetic. The title Beats of Rage is of course an homage to the '90s era Sega beat'em up franchise Streets of Rage and there are lots of nods to other games such as Mortal Kombat, The Elder Scrolls, and Street Fighter II. The narrative even feels like a video game with JTRO having to "level up" with smaller battles first before tackling the final boss. As a gamer myself, I enjoyed all the little references and it makes the film feel a lot wackier and frenetic (if a bit unfocused) than the original.

It's hard not to see the parallel between JTRO's character arc in Beats of Rage and the real life director Jason Trost as they both have had a long road in trying to get their goals accomplished. JTRO is world weary and cynical in this film and suffering from self-doubt, but he has the admiration of his friends and the memories of his deceased brother BTRO (Brandon Barrera) to bolster his confidence. He does a lot of soul-searching and introspection which was unexpected, but gives the story some heart.

The look of the film is much more epic and fantastical this time around with colorful backgrounds and lots of aerial shots. The costuming and music is top-notch again with many creative flourishes and JTRO's signature eye-patch even gets a makeover! One thing I did notice is that the dialogue feels "toned down" from the first film, which is understandable, but it's still just as amusing to listen to. The color grading is extremely saturated even further cementing the video game feeling, and there is a super fun montage sequence with excellent use of split-screen.

Fans of the first film will definitely have a blast seeing their favorite characters again. Get you some booze, a bunch of your friends, and head on down to Frazier Park!

--Michelle Kisner