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film review

Calum Worthy and Jackie Long in Bodied.Courtesy of TIFF

  • Bodied
  • Directed by Joseph Kahn
  • Written by Joseph Kahn and Alex Larsen
  • Starring Calum Worthy, Jackie Long and Anthony Michael Hall
  • Classification 18A; 120 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Last year, Joseph Kahn was Public Enemy No. 2 – right behind the Western pop world’s then-nemesis, Taylor Swift. That’s because Kahn was the music-video director behind Swift’s 2017 hot-take-ready video, Look What You Made Me Do, and has been the aesthetic architect behind a wealth of other Swift-ian projects. But a lot can change in a year: Swift is now back in the public’s good graces, thanks to her get-out-and-vote stance. And Kahn seems to be reaping the good graces of the few critics and audiences who got to see his social satire Bodied on the festival circuit, before it disappeared as the film’s distribution strategy stretched on and on. Now, finally, fans of Kahn – whether it be his work with Swift or his meta-genre mashups Torque and Detention – can experience the film that feels like a firebomb, no matter how long it took to get here. Focused on one cocky white student’s foray into the world of California battle rap, Bodied is at times vile in its content and bananas in its execution. But Kahn is not a mere shock artist, and as the film progresses and twists its perspective, it’s clear the director is playing a much deeper, more complicated and extremely messy game. Audiences may not delight in the cultural destruction on display, but most anyone will be hard-pressed to ignore Kahn’s manic enthusiasm.

Bodied opens Nov. 9 in Toronto and Nov. 12 in Vancouver.