Nick Cannon loves himself in The King of the Dancehall
Sharky/ Polite Paparazzi/ Splash News, Juanito Aguil/ Che Rosales/ Getty Images
Nick Cannon turned up with this allegedly true story about Tarzan Brixton, a Brooklyn transplant who mastered the art of dancing in Kingston, Jamaica and became a dancehall champion in what is basically Step Up 2 Jamaican Streets. The King of the Dancehall is laughably bad, but it’s the kind of ridiculous that can be fun to watch. Get your friends, have a few drinks, and enjoy all the music video montages strewn throughout the movie in place of stuff like plot and character development.
Working both sides of the camera, Cannon also stars as Tarzan—in the most believable aspect of the film, no one can believe this is his real name—and while he’s not a great actor, he knows how to star in what is essentially a hundred minute dance video. His acting is not really the issue so much as his utterly vainglorious direction. Dancehall is full of extreme close-ups of Cannon’s face, his abs, his hands touching women’s asses, there are two sex scenes, one of which is under a f*cking waterfall, and characters spend more time talking about how awesome Tarzan is than we actually spend watching him do anything awesome. I thought Nate Parker’s direction of The Birth of a Nation was a little self-indulgent but this is straight up self-glorifying.
The story, in so far as this movie has one, is your typical rags-to-riches by way of dancing tale. Tarzan gets out of jail and needs money for his sick mother, and so he decides to go to Jamaica and hook up with his cousin (Busta Rhymes) to set up a marijuana pipeline back to Brooklyn. While in Kingston, he discovers the dancehalls where there are organized, costumed dance teams who compete in dance-offs. Tarzan learns to dance and almost immediately becomes the hero of the dancehall scene, upsetting a rival drug dealer in the process. (Speaking to Duana’s point, there is one scene of Tarzan learning to dance and the next thing you know, he’s the best dancer in Jamaica.) It sounds very made up despite the “based on a true story” tag.
Cannon has the sensibilities of a music video director, so while the movie as a whole is an utter mess, the dance scenes are solid, though the focus on female asses is obnoxious. Outside the dance stuff, though, Dancehall is unnecessarily busy. Cannon uses graphic title cards to introduce new characters, there is a lot of voice over, and intercut throughout the movie is a talking-head interview with Jamaican musician Moses “Beenie Man” Davis. Given the sheer amount of exposition, he would have been better off directing a documentary on the subject, but then, he wouldn’t have gotten to shoot that bitchin’ sex scene under a waterfall.
And to be fair, the dancehall culture is fascinating. It’s easy to see why this story hooked Cannon. It’s just presented in such a sloppy fashion as to be rendered nearly incoherent, and the movie itself is so clearly Cannon’s love letter to himself that it’s impossible to take this seriously as an actual movie. The King of the Dancehall isn’t a real movie, it’s Nick Cannon jerking off for a couple hours about what hot sh*t he is. This is not the intention of the movie, but it is funny as hell. (Lainey: obviously I’m watching the F-CK out of this movie. And will have it memorised.)