Review: Flex is Kings


Director:Michael Beach Nichols, Deidre Schoo


Running Time:80.00


Flex is Kings is an often exhilarating documentary about the style of dance known as flexing. But those feelings fade as the film goes on. This would have been perfect as a half-hour short. As feature film, it has long drags and far too many characters.

Directors Michael Beach Nichols and Deidre Schoo focus most of their attention on Flizzo, a heavyset but graceful ex-gang member, and Jay, who gets recruited for a risqué production of Pinocchio. But they seem so enamored with everyone who even attempts to flex the film detours to spend time with lots of other New Yorkers, some of whom aren't that interesting.

While the dance sequences"”and there are many, perhaps too many"”are thrilling, the documentary doesn't stop to explore more where it should. When an agreement with a venue to host a flexing competition hits a tangle over some ridiculous technicalities, there's some blatant racism and stereotyping going on by the owners of the venue. But the film doesn't draw enough of a line between flexing and defying stereotypes.

And while Flizzo is an interesting personality, his tumultuous home life brings in far more drama than his desire to be the top flexer, despite being unemployed. In fact, there's so much to be mined from the characters who seem to be barely scraping by that it feels like a missed opportunity.

The only character who monetizes his dancing ability is Jay, who not only nails his audition to play Pinocchio in a modern ballet company, he gets to travel across the world touring with it. Surely there was some jealousy and doubts among his friends, but we never see that angle. A documentary solely about Jay could have been even more fascinating.

What's most absent from Flex is Kings is a unifying theme. Its use as an alternative to joining a gang is briefly suggested, but it doesn't encompass the whole movement. Other documentaries on dance subcultures had a bond. Paris is Burning was about a group of men who had to literally go underground to express themselves. Rize chronicled an ancestral connection and outlet for the oppressed. If there's a strong tie among flexers, it's never displayed onscreen, aside from the usual camaraderie that comes with being a member of any team.

Even with a lack of focus, Flex is Kings shines a spotlight on a previously unseen group who are avoiding the pitfalls New York can offer. On that basis, as well as its mind-blowing dance sequences, it's worth catching. 


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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