By Koushik Paul
Edited by Anthony Zangrillo
This movie is targeting a specific audience, twenty-something millennials who believe in the complexities of being a DJ. Thankfully, the film knows its audience well.
The movie comes out swinging with character introductions completed within the first three minutes. As you would expect in a movie about being a DJ, the soundtrack is top-notch. Director Max Joseph fully takes advantage of this asset by piecing together shots that match the accompanying music. Two standout moments in the film include the Las Vegas sequence invoking lust, and the fancy party in the beginning, conveying the aftermath of drugs. The actual DJ scenes are also well done. In fact, the film introduces the audience to the “science” behind spinning tracks. While this device is entertaining in the beginning, it is underutilized by the end.
For the most part, the casting is superb. Zac Efron plays Cole, an up-and-coming DJ, with just enough charisma and charm to make us believe he can achieve his dream. His romance scenes with Emily Ratajkowski’s Sophie are a bit worse though. While all the characters in this film are very much stereotypes, Sophie feels more predictable than the others. Yet Ratajkowski does what she can with the role. Jonny Weston and Shiloh Fernandez exceed expectations, while Alex Shaffer falls victim to the script. Shaffer’s character, Squirrel, is not given a lot of development or screen time considering his role in the story. The worst of the cast is Wes Bentley. With little conviction, Bentley portrays a washed out DJ character, which will leave audiences unaffected. Another bad choice was Jon Bernthal who plays an antagonistic businessman, Paige. The character is menacing enough, but he lacks the charisma and charm to ensnare audiences into the ensuing trap for the protagonists.
Undoubtedly, the winding plot is he worst part of the movie. Initially, the film focuses on being a DJ hero, but suddenly the movie shifts to the struggles of the boys. Then, the plot meanders on a romance tale, talks about the shady practices of businessmen, dives into the self-destructive lives of the boys, and then finally settles down back to being a DJ. While serviceable, the themes get watered down a bit when everything is juggled from scene to scene. However, there is a payoff, as Cole uses all of these themes to craft the perfect song. In a way, this is a great build to the end, but the result does feel a bit patched together.
With great directing, aesthetic, casting, and overall payoff, audiences will probably overlook the few bad performances and patched together plot. Overall, this is a movie that knows it audience; and if you’re reading this review, you’re probably going to be a part of it.