Review: DON’T BE NICE Is A Poetic Documentary About Social Issues

FIRST IMPRESSION

A fascinating doc about a lesser-known art form, Don't Be Nice is as entertaining as it is revelatory, an important film for the times.
Directing
Entertainment Value
Technical Merit

Don’t Be Nice, directed by Max Powers, is a new documentary film shining a spotlight on the lesser-known art of slam poetry. Offering both an interesting exploration of the artform and what its artists have to say, this is a fascinating documentary that is much more important than it may initially seem.

The movie follows the Bowery Slam Poetry Team as they set out to compete in the 2016 national championships. The structure of the story follows the underdog arc, the audience cheering for these competitors as they go through various successes and defeats, but unlike most other documentaries like this, there is more to the film than that — Don’t Be Nice has something on its mind.

Something that the documentary stresses is that art, particularly slam poetry, is inherently political. As such, a significant focus of the movie is on how the Bowery Slam Poetry Team uses their poems to make political statements regarding what speaks to them at the time. Some of the best moments in the film are interviews in which the audience gets insight as to how members of the team were inspired to write their work.

Because there is a lot happening in the movie, both narratively and thematically, the film’s brisk runtime breezes by. The movie’s timeline does lack clarity, but this helps create a sense of urgency within the storyline. Because the audience only gets to see them prepare and rehearse for a short amount of time, the things which they are talking about feel immediately relevant although the events which they are referencing occurred years ago.

don't be nice subway

The only real flaw of this film is that it does not develop the members of the team on an individual level. Enough context is given for the audience to understand why they are talking about what they are talking about, but additional knowledge of their backgrounds and personality could have made the movie hit even harder.

Instead, the focus is placed on their work and its importance, and for the most part, it is pretty effective. Some of the performances, particularly in the end of the film, are powerful enough to give one chills. This movie does a phenomenal job of establishing the power that words can have by giving the audience examples of how words can be used in the right way to incite social change.

On a technical level, the film is mostly solid. The editing and cinematography are both done in a way to heighten urgency. Being that the movie takes place in 2016, these stylistic choices help make the film feel like it is still current and important. Additionally, the rhythm of the poems is used in a way to keep the narrative moving and interesting.

In many ways, Don’t Be Nice is an impressive documentary. Although some things could have been done to make the movie feel more personal, it is interesting and important regardless.

Don’t Be Nice opens in theaters on September 20.

TRENDING THIS WEEK

Mayans M.C. | Season 2: Behind the Cut: Danny Pino | FX

Duality. @TheDannyPino talks finding positive, inner confidence as an actor that lets him accurately portray Galindo. #MayansFX Subscribe now for more Mayans M.C. clips: http://bit.ly/SubscribeFX Mayans M.C. is the next chapter in the Sons of Anarchy saga. Set in a post-Jax Teller world, EZ Reyes is a prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the…

The Knight Before Christmas | Official Trailer | Netflix

After a sorceress transports medieval knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) to present-day Ohio during the holiday season, he befriends Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens), a clever and kind science teacher who's been disillusioned by love. Brooke helps Sir Cole navigate the modern world as he tries to discover how to fulfill his mysterious one true quest —…

The Flash | Season 6 Episode 6 | License To Elongate Promo | The CW

Stream new episodes of The Flash Wednesdays, free only on The CW App: http://go.cwtv.com/genFLAyt SUBSCRIBE: http://go.cwtv.com/YTSubscribe About THE FLASH: Based on characters from DC's The Flash. After the S.T.A.R. Labs Particle Accelerator explosion, a dark matter lightning storm strikes Central City C.S.I. Barry Allen, bestowing him with super-human speed. For now, only a few close…

Black Lightning | Season 3 Episode 6 | The Book Of Resistance: Chapter One Promo | The CW

Stream new episodes of Black Lightning Tuesdays, free only on The CW App: https://go.cwtv.com/genBLKyt SUBSCRIBE: http://go.cwtv.com/YTSubscribe About BLACK LIGHTNING: Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked…

Mike Birbiglia: The New One | Official Trailer | Netflix

Comedian Mike Birbiglia hits Broadway with a hilarious yet profound one-man show that recounts his emotional and physical journey to parenthood. Mike Birbiglia: The New One launches November 26 only on Netflix.  Watch Mike Birbiglia: The New One, only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81062293 SUBSCRIBE: https://bit.ly/29qBUt7 About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading internet entertainment service with 158 million paid…

Antoni Baking Apple Pie Might be the Sweetest Queer Eye Moment Ever | Netflix

You're going to need tissues while watching this sweet moment between Antoni and Yoko while they bake together from our special season Queer Eye: We're In Japan! Watch Queer Eye: We're in Japan!, only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81038150 SUBSCRIBE: https://bit.ly/29qBUt7 About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading internet entertainment service with 158 million paid memberships in…

Dynasty | Season 3 Episode 5 | First 5 Promo | The CW

Stream the first five episodes of Dynasty, free only on The CW App: http://go.cwtv.com/DYNyt SUBSCRIBE: http://go.cwtv.com/YTSubscribe About DYNASTY: Fallon Carrington is charismatic, cunning, and poised to become the new COO of her father’s global energy empire – or so she thinks. When her father, Blake Carrington, summons Fallon and her brother, Steven, home in Atlanta,…

Let It Snow Cast Tries Holiday Pick Up Lines | Charm Battle | Netflix

Kiernan Shipka, Mitchell Hope and Matthew Noszka battle it out to see who is the most charming using cheesy pick up lines. Watch Prank Encounters, only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80201542 SUBSCRIBE: https://bit.ly/29qBUt7 About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading internet entertainment service with 158 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and…
Avatar
Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here