New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review of ‘Respeto’

New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review of ‘Respeto’

When a rap battle involves a rapper who not only references the Stone Cold Stunner, but then actually pulls one to finish off his opponent, you know you are in for a unique ride. Respeto’s rollicking opening lures viewers into thinking it will be a gleeful orgy of music and fast hitting insults.

Director Alberto “Treb” Monteras II has other plans in mind though. He has no interest in telling a traditional rise of the underdog tale. Instead he weaves a captivating look at the bonds that bring people together, and the dangerous politics that rip communities apart. Living in the politically charged slums, were civilians regularly clash with police, Hendrix (Abra) lives and breathes hip hop. When not slinging drugs for his addict sister and her drug dealer boyfriend, Hendrix spends time practicing his rhymes and getting in trouble with his two closest friends.

Determined to move up the ranks of the Versus underground rap battle league, Hendrix will do anything to get the cash needed for the entry fee, including stealing from an elderly bookstore owner Doc (Dido de la Paz), a former poet whose shop Hendrix is ordered to repair his shop as their punishment.

Energetic, gritty, and emotionally enthralling, Monteras II crafts a film that never goes where you expect it too. As Hendrix and Doc (Abra) begin to bond, it is clear both have demons to confront. The underground rap world may be our entry point into this world, it is the hardships and paralyzing fear that each man endures that makes this film riveting.

Much like 8 Mile and the brilliant satire Bodied before it, Respeto shows that there is still a wealth of untapped rap inspired stories to be told. Tales that pack a searing social punch.

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Courtney is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic and the founder of Cinema Axis. He can frequently be heard discussing film as co-host of Frameline on Radio Regent. Courtney has contributed to several publications including Leornard Maltin, That Shelf, Black Girl Nerds, and Comix Asylum Magazine. He also celebrates diversity in cinema as co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.
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