After a limited theatrical run, and a long tour around the festival circuit, Joseph Kahn’s bombastic battle rap satire Bodied has finally landed on YouTube Premium. The film sparked a lot of conversation when it played TIFF and Fantastic Fest last year and stirred both staunch defenders and critics to a boil. Our own Victor Stiff fell somewhere in the middle with his review, but still managed to call the whole experience “electric…visually creative and lyrically impressive.”
Wherever your judgment might ultimately fall, once consumed Bodied is a hard film to shake. The story centers on college boy Adam Merkin (Calum Worthy) accidentally succeeding in the world of battle rap after his nerdish enthusiasm charms champion Behn Grymm (Jackie Long). From there Adam attempts to mask his toxicity with progressive values, alienating his traditional place of privilege as well as those he admires so greatly. Bodied is the film you’ve been looking to address our current state of putrid fandom.
Written by former battle rapper Kid Twist a.k.a. Alex Larsen, and produced by Eminem and Def Jam Records CEO Paul Rosenberg, the film features top-tier artistry from Dizaster, Dumbfounded, Hollow Da Don, and Charlamagne Tha God. Whether you’re a fan already or completely new to the art form, the energy on display is infectious, and like South Park, it targets every creed and race. Don’t bother clutching your pearls or throwing your fist in the air, at some point in the narrative, Bodied puts your perspective in the wrong, and when the credits roll it offers no easy answers.
Bodied had a long road to walk to find distribution after Fantastic Fest. Winning the audience award there, the feeling on the night was that Joseph Kahn would have a home for his film instantly. Days turned into months, and news that YouTube scored the feature did not come until January of this year. At the time, the film landed under their YouTube Red branding, but then came Cobra Kai and the promise of YouTube Premium.
Subscription business is a beast. Throwing yourself into a ring already dominated by Netflix and Amazon takes some serious courage (unless you’re Disney). At $11.99 a month, there are better deals out there with a helluva lot more content. Bodied is a brilliant conversation-starter selection, but maybe not the family-friendliest gateway to more dollars.
Earlier this week, YouTube announced that they were scaling back on their original content and focusing on ad-based revenue instead of subscription. Yay! Free Cobra Kai for everyone! Well, wait a minute.
According to the USA Today, YouTube is still looking to expand their roster of creators, but this “single slate strategy” will deliver all of their content to the same audience. Originals like Cobra Kai and Bodied will remain exclusive to subscribers for now, but by 2020 everything is up for grabs. The question becomes can this same ol’ same ol’ gameplan bring in new artists? It’s hard not to react to this news as YouTube taking a major step back from the competition of Netflix, Amazon, and other deeper pockets.
YouTube needs to hold its spending for now. Cobra Kai got them some traction, and Bodied is the perfect film to pique the curiosity of Film Twitter. Their recent acquisition of over a hundred MGM titles ain’t nothing to sneeze at either. At the very least, these offerings are worth the one-month free trial, and if they’re lucky enough, a few of us will forget to cancel immediately.