Review by Sean Boelman
One of the most frustrating things about the coming-of-age genre is that, even though these films are about a protagonist coming into their own, they are all too often unable to do their own thing. Blast Beat certainly has some noble ambitions, but it gets a bit too caught up in conventions to live up to its potential.
The movie follows a teenage metalhead/science prodigy who sets out to achieve the American Dream along with his Colombian immigrant family. There have been plenty of really powerful films about people pursuing a better life in America, and Esteban Arango’s feature debut threatens to join their ranks at multiple occasions but always redirects before it can go anywhere.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is that it is trying to juggle too many things. The protagonist is struggling with his identity as an immigrant, a metalhead, and a scientist, but the script doesn’t do a good enough job of exploring the clash between his various passions and obligations.
There really aren’t enough immigrant stories committed to the screen, and so this is a step in the right direction in that regard, but there are still more nuanced ways to explore these themes. More often than not, the immigrant-centric parts of the story are tear-jerking rather than a genuine way of addressing the topic.
Something that is a big let down in the film is the lack of development to the central brotherly dynamic. At a certain point, the movie becomes much more interested in the protagonist than his brother, coming at the expense of the audience’s connection to the film. Although the central arc is well-written, the rest of the characters could have used a lot more work.
There is also something left to be desired in the metal portion of the storyline. This isn’t quite a music movie because the music ends up becoming a comparatively insignificant portion. Had this been a bigger focus of the script, with the addition of a killer soundtrack and a bit more style, this could have felt a lot more distinctive.
That said, the acting in the movie is genuinely strong. Real-life brothers Mateo and Moses Arias obviously have a great deal of natural chemistry, which goes a long way in making the film tick. The supporting cast is also very good, with solid turns from Daniel Dae Kim and Wilmer Valderrama.
Blast Beat has some very strong acting that prevents it from being an entirely forgettable entry in the genre, but it shows a lot of promise on which it can’t deliver. We need more movies like this, just with a greater sense of originality.
Blast Beat is now available on VOD.