Combustible Celluloid
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With: Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Diane Guerrero, Daniel Dae Kim, Wilmer Valderrama, Kali Uchis, Ava Capri, Ashley Jackson
Written by: Esteban Arango, Erick Castrillon
Directed by: Esteban Arango
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 105
Date: 05/21/2021

Blast Beat (2021)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Speed of Satellite

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cluttered with too many ideas going in too many directions, this drama nevertheless gets a pass for its vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience in America, and its love-hate portrait of brothers.

It's 1999, and brothers Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias) are preparing to move with their mother Nelly (Diane Guerrero) to Georgia in the United States. Their father Ernesto (Wilmer Valderrama) has been there for months, working as a painter and getting their house ready. Science prodigy — and death metal fan — Carly hopes to enroll in the Georgia Institute of Technology and eventually work for NASA.

Mateo, meanwhile, is a reckless hothead and continually brings trouble down on himself and his family. Things take a dark turn when Ernesto is deported, Carly lies in order to audit a class taught by former astronaut Dr. Onitsuka (Daniel Dae Kim), and Mateo gets into a fight with a wealthy, blonde bully.

The title Blast Beat refers to the hyper-fast, machine-gun drums as heard in death-metal songs (of which the soundtrack is richly comprised), but aside from being a cool title, it has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the movie. There are other jagged edges. In Colombia, Carly seems to be dating a young woman (Kali Uchis), yet seems to be not at all affected by their impending separation. But later, when she video chats to tell him she's dating someone else, he gets upset.

The reason for leaving Colombia involves some kind of extortion that the family is trying to escape, but this is not really explained, or brought up again. Other bits and pieces feel tacked-on, but Blast Beat still comes out ahead by showing us the point of view of an immigrant family trying to grab hold of the American dream, and all of the obstacles that pop up, from red tape to flat-out racism.

The real life Arias brothers (older brother Moises Arias — who plays the younger brother here — had his breakout performance in the terrific The Kings of Summer) have a tangible connection, and their jealousies, rage, and love are undeniably honest.

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