REVIEW: 30 Beats
The great television series Naked City used to close each episode with the famous tag, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” It’s very compact size and dense population means people are intersecting in new and unusual ways all the time. This has given rise to some wonderful fiction such as Kissing in Manhattan and some less memorable fare such as the recently released film 30 Beats. Using a heat wave as the through-line the heat is also a metaphor for the sexual tension between ten various New Yorkers. Structurally, it owes a great deal to Max Ophuls’s La Ronde but never comes close to its brilliance.
The cast is headed by sexy Paz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire) and Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies), and the film was written and directed by Alexis Lloyd. The cast also includes Condola Rashad, Justin Kirk, Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom), and Jennifer Tilly. Its tag line, “New York City, in the heart of summer: a heat wave transforms the city into a tropical zone. Ten characters are drawn, one after the other, into a ring of love and desire, each one caught beyond his or her control in a chain reaction of seduction, impulses and self-discovery” is certainly catchy but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Given the rich possibilities, it’s a shame the film runs a lightweight 88 minutes and doesn’t really bring any of the characters to real light or allow them any depth. As a result, there’s a lot of sweat and plenty of exposed skin, but you’ve seen better on any late night Cinemax production.
Out today from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, it’s billed a comedic romance but the comedy is fairly tame and the romance is of the heaving bosom variety. There’s the older woman (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) seducing the virgin (Ben Levin) at a spa only to learn she was hired by dad to be his first sexual experience. While a cliché situation, Lloyd allows their inner thoughts to come through, making this awkwardness somewhat sweet. It also promises this could be a good little film, but then we’re shown she was only inspired this one time. The rest is a series of clichés without redemption as character A meets up with character B and after sex, character B hooks up with character C and frankly, the characterizations are as flat as this description. That the core cast is between 25-35 also steals chances for some interesting comparisons among the generations.
There’s the tarot reader helping the young man overcome erectile dysfunction with the aid of some crystals and the chiropractor who gets it on with one of his patients. Every encounter between characters culminates in sex, without fail, and each exchange robs the actors of a chance to actually invest any emotion and feeling into their characters. There’s far too much sex (believe it or not) and nowhere near enough depth.
It’s always a shame when a film about sex is just the sex and nothing about those who commit the act. A more adult approach would have taken this concept, heat wave and all, and really made the audience melt.