By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Uneven but vivid drama has strong language, drinking, pot.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is more or less about the American Dream. Depicts how hard that dream can be for some immigrants to achieve. It has a happy ending in that respect, but that feels tacked on, suggests that success in the U.S. requires extraordinary talent or knowledge.
Positive Role Models
Attempts to depict three-dimensional Colombian family, flaws and all. They fight frequently, and both boys get into trouble in various ways. Characters can't be described as entirely positive, but movie is clearly attempting to subvert stereotypes and portray people and situations that feel emotionally real. Meanwhile, White characters use racist slurs to refer to the main characters and possibly deliberately mistake their nationality as Mexican: "Jose," "chili-s--tter," "Chihuahua," etc.
Violence & Scariness
Teen boys fight with a cop; the cop hits one boy with a club, the other boy kicks the cop in the stomach. Teen boys fight at school; one gets a puffy, swollen eye, then a black eye. An explosive blows up a little girl's dollhouse/fort. Character smashes up an expensive car. Temper tantrums, smashing things. Frequent loud/angry songs. Threats ("I'm gonna kill you!").
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Giant penis painted on wall. Teens make sexual gestures, thrusting, etc. Teens kiss, sometimes passionately. Oral sex implied (girl leans toward a boy's lap area; he leans back, and she's out of frame). Teen girl lowers her pants to show off a tattoo (nothing sensitive shown).
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Extremely strong, frequent language includes liberal use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "ass," "badass," "bitch," "hell," "damn," "idiot," and "moron." Middle-finger gestures.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teen drinks excessively, gets drunk, throws up. Teen smokes something in a glass pipe. Teens smoke pot together. Teen drinking at New Year's party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Blast Beat is a drama about a Colombian family that immigrates to America, with two sons whose lives are on different trajectories. Language is extremely strong and frequent, with tons of uses of "f--k," "a--hole," and more, as well as some racist slurs used by negative characters. Violence includes fighting, temper tantrums, and smashing things. Teen boys fight with a cop in one scene, there's a small explosion, and loud, angry music is heard. Teens kiss, sometimes passionately; oral sex is suggested in one scene; characters make sexual gestures; and a giant penis is painted on a wall. Teens drink alcohol -- one character gets drunk and throws up -- and smoke pot in many scenes; in one scene, a glass pipe is smoked. The movie is uneven, but the relationship between the two sons (real-life brothers Mateo and Moises Arias) and the three-dimensional portrayal of the immigrant experience make it worth recommending.
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What's the Story?
In BLAST BEAT, it's 1999, and brothers Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias) are preparing to move with their mother, Nelly (Diane Guerrero), to Georgia in the United States. Their father, Ernesto (Wilmer Valderrama), has already been there for months, working as a painter and getting the family's house ready. Science prodigy/death-metal fan Carly hopes to enroll in the Georgia Institute of Technology and eventually work for NASA. Mateo, meanwhile, is reckless, continually bringing trouble down on himself and his family. Things take a dark turn when Ernesto is deported, Carly lies in order to audit a class taught by former astronaut Dr. Onitsuka (Daniel Dae Kim), and Mateo gets into a fight with a wealthy, blond-haired bully.
Is It Any Good?
Cluttered with too many ideas, this drama still gets credit for its three-dimensional portrayal of the immigrant experience in America and its love-hate portrait of brothers. The title Blast Beat refers to the hyper-fast, machine-gun drumming heard in death-metal songs (of which the movie's soundtrack is richly composed), but, aside from being a cool title, it has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the movie. There are other jagged edges here, too. For example, in Colombia, Carly seems to be dating a young woman (Kali Uchis) but isn't affected at all by their impending separation. But later, when she video-chats to tell him she's dating someone else, he gets upset.
The family's reason for leaving Colombia involves some kind of criminal extortion that they're trying to escape, but it's not really explained or brought up again. Other bits and pieces feel tacked on, but Blast Beat still comes out ahead by offering the complex story of an immigrant family trying to grab hold of the American dream, and all of the obstacles that get in their way, from red tape to blatant racism. And the real-life Arias brothers (older brother Moises, who plays Mateo, had his breakout role in the terrific The Kings of Summer) have a tangible connection; their jealousies, rage, and love are undeniably honest.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Blast Beat's violence. How did the fighting and smashing things make you feel? How much of it comes from a place of anger or frustration?
How are alcohol and drugs depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences for using them? Why does that matter?
How does the movie depict the immigrant experience? What kinds of obstacles does the family face? What keeps them going?
How are people of color represented here? Are they positive role models? Are they realistic? Are stereotypes used?
What does the movie's title mean? How does it apply to the story as a whole?
- In theaters: May 21, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: May 21, 2021
- Cast: Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Diane Guerrero
- Director: Esteban Arango
- Inclusion Information: Latinx directors, Latinx actors
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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