Review: Saigon Electric
Advertised as the ‘Asian Step Up,’ I was already dreading the 100 minutes to come at Saigon Electric. If these hip-hoppers were Japanese, Korean or Philippine dancers, okay, but Vietnamese? I find it deliriously hard to believe this movie will be anything noteworthy when there’s barely a dance culture in Vietnam to begin with. Stick to your gang movies, this genre isn’t for you. You don’t see the Chinese getting off their kung-fu fighting track, so let’s quit now while we’re ahead.
First of all, I’m not surprised that Stephane Gauger knows nothing about dance himself, but is rather just someone curious about the art and thought he could re-create it in Asian form by copying basically ever other element found in American dance flicks. Unless you’re Thierry Guetta, you can’t brainwash an entire community into believing that you know what you’re filming about, so consequently, you’re not filming it very well.
It starts off with very typical dance life drama. Mai is a girl from the country that moves to the big city to pursue a life in dance and auditions at the dance academy, in her obnoxious pink prom gown while a bunch of girls in black leotards snicker at her. Of course she fails her audition and starts working at some restaurant waiting tables, forgetting about the real reason why she came all the way over here. She meets Kim, apparently, one of the five ‘real hip hop girls’ (I would doubt there’s even five, nor would I put Kim in the list, but sure) in Vietnam. Kim helps Mai get ready for a night out and says, “You’re not in the country anymore.” Think really quick to Save The Last Dance and the diss on The Gap? Been there, done that, in an infinitely better way.
Common to many love interest scenarios in Asian film, there’s an Aladdin-type situation where there’s a romance between the rich and the poor that is somehow supposed to change everything if they actually work out. The only logistical thing that happens in this movie is when Kim doesn’t get her knight in shining armor and gets stood up on the street. Point blank: if you’re not beautiful, educated and rich, you’ve got nothing to live for.
But I’ve got to say, Stephane Gauger does try. The movie opens up with a guy break-dancing on a puddle, because dancing only looks epic when you’re splashing all around in bootleg Adidas. There’s also a dance centre where they practice that is about to get torn down so they have to do whatever they can to save it. Lastly, there’s a huge street dance battle where we finally get to see some real choreography. By the way, the North Killaz (who I doubt are even completely Vietnamese) are way sicker than the featured group, Saigon Fresh. And can someone tell me why there are only two crews in the entire competition? Saigon Electric, you just got served.