Title: Flex is Kings

Directors: Michael Beach Nichols and Deidre Schoo

Starring: Jermaine ‘Flizzo’ Clement and Jay Donn

Bravely and captivatingly taking a stand to memorably make a statement and prove your abilities and worthiness to your audience can be a challenge for many people. The new movie ‘Flex Is Kings,’ from documentarian filmmakers Michael Beach Nichols and Deidre School, made an admirable attempt to showcase how the importance of having a talent you excel in can not only enrich your future, but society as a whole. While the helmers did successfully prove that having confidence and a support system can help in achieving your goals, the movie unfortunately failed to thoroughly showcase the importance of the dance style as a whole on society outside of Brooklyn. That left audiences unfamiliar with flexing unfulfilled and uncertain about what the movement is really about.

‘Flex Is Kings’ showcases the lives of several dancers in East New York over a course of two years, as they work to raise the hype and popularity of flex dancing. Flexing is a style of street dance from Brooklyn that’s driven by rhythmic contortionist movements. The movement’s dancers, commonly known as flexors, often hype up their performances with extreme showmanship.

The primary flexors highlighted are Jermaine ‘Flizzo’ Clement and Jay Donn, whose personal relationships and struggles to succeed and be noticed professionally are intercut with their performances. The complications in organizing the 2011 edition of the biggest flexing competitions in Brooklyn, Battlefest, which was co-founded by Reem, Kirsha and Ms. James, is explored before Flizzo is shown moving up the ranks of the dance-off. The dancer has a high confidence in his skills and dancing ability, which is validated by the continuous support he receives from the spectators. But he’s having a more difficult time adjusting to being a new father, and how parenthood is affecting his relationship with his girlfriend.

Dpmm, meanwhile, meets with director Austin McCormick and actor-writer Jeff Takacs at the Company XIV theater in Carroll Gardens, and is subsequently cast as Pinocchio in a flex-inspired edition of the play. He reluctantly parts with his girlfriend, Vanessa, to travel with the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But the performances in Scotland open more opportunities to utilize his flexing skills professionally around the world.

Nichols and Schoo created a powerful, emotional documentary that expressively emphasizes how the dancers’ love for flexing drives them to pursue professional success in the field. Don’s journey is particularly satisfyingly portrayed throughout the film, as the chance meeting he had with McCormick and Takacs lead to his successful touring with ‘Pinocchio.’ With the support of his girlfriend, Vanessa, Don is graciously shown building his confidence of performing choreographed routines, which finally turned his talent into an esteemed career.

Despite the creative and captivating choreography that Nichols and Schoo spectacularly captured in their dual duties as directors and cinematographers, particularly through the intimate shots of the flexors as they were practicing and competing, ‘Flex Is Kings’ unfortunately failed to truly showcase the true importance of the flex movement. While the documentary genuinely and thoroughly showcased the importance of the dance style to residents of the Brooklyn communities where it’s popular, the film does little to really showcase the true catalyst that helped made it important to the dancers.

Reem and Kirsha rightfully stressed to the flexors who signed up for Battlefest that they have to fight to prove their worthiness to be taken seriously by the flex community throughout the film, which chronicled the constant struggles the dancers face while establishing themselves. But even their emphasis on working hard to gain the respect and recognition they deserve isn’t enough to warrant a close examination of the dance movement. While the film does show how flexing helps keep children and young adults from committing illegal acts, the dancers’ journeys do little to showcase the lasting positive effects the dance will have on society.

‘Flex Is Kings’ made a commendable effort to showcase how developing a passion for even one thing, such as dancing, can help even the most troubled youth find a positive, beneficial outlet to expressively funnel their true talent and emotions. The flexors in the documentary, particularly Donn and Flizzo, are shown courageously pursuing their dreams. Their powerful routines not only show their talents, but also that working hard can lead to the ultimate recognition within a community. Unfortunately, the at-times lax storyline failed to create any real enthusiasm for the flex movement among people who were previously unfamiliar with the style. From cutting away from routines during their most intriguing moments, to including interviews with lesser-known flexors who don’t offer any unique insight into the movement, to not fully explaining the major events in the featured dancers’ lives, the film would have fared better with a more in-depth, intelligent exploration of the dance movement.

Technical: B+

Story: B-

Overall: B

Written by: Karen Benardello

Flex is King Movie Review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *