Still of Mateo Arias, Wilmer Valderrama, Diane Guerrero, and Moises Arias in BLAST BEAT by Esteban Arango.

Sundance Film Review: Blast Beat


Blast Beat
Sundance Film Festival

Director: Esteban Arango

Brothers Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias) move from Bogotá, Colombia, to Atlanta, Georgia. Both rebels in their own ways, Carly is looking forward to the move, seeing it as an opportunity to get closer to the Georgia Aerospace Institute, while Mateo loathes the idea of leaving his life in Colombia. Blast Beat explores the struggles of trying to navigate suburban America as a young immigrant.

Right off the bat, the only references to metal at all are in Carly’s appearance and his Colombian group of metal-head friends at the start of the film. Even the film’s soundtrack, which I actually loved, left a lot to be desired if you thought this film was at all about metal music. Though Blast Beat was from a 2015 short film by the same name, for me, the title and the film’s connection to metal music were shaky, at best.

Blast Beat seems to struggle with editing. There are too many side characters and subplots that didn’t serve the story. We’re introduced to a friend Mateo makes in the locker room when he’s being bullied by another student. While I initially thought that this character was going to be important later on, he only appears once more and fades into obscurity.

Similarly on Carly’s side, he meets a girl who shares his love of science and metal bands. While she seems like a dynamic character at first, she really serves no purpose later in the film and is forgotten about once the Georgia Aerospace Institute story line takes over. 

In addition, it was hard for me to get past the fact that the brothers’ parents (Wilmer Valderrama and Diane Guerro) both look as though they are barely old enough to be parents in general, let alone parents of teenagers. I felt as though Valderrama’s presence, in particular, was somewhat wasted, as he only was there to give a few dad-isms about staying together as a family.

There was more star power with Daniel Dae Kim playing an astronaut/professor who mentors Carly and Carly’s girlfriend (Kali Uchis) back in Colombia. However, her story, as someone who is moving on with her life in Colombia, takes the back-burner to the mess of other storylines going on in this film.

That said, I do like the dynamic between the the Arias brothers, as there are some raw moments where their characters really come through for each other, despite their ongoing sibling rivalry. I particularly felt empathetic toward Mateo, who struggled with the move, and his penchant for getting into trouble. The moments of his getting back at his bullies are, for me, the best in the film.

I just wish that this was the focus for Blast Beat all along, rather than trying to squeeze in plots of new love interests, friends and a crooked immigration lawyer, as those could never truly be resolved in that timeframe. –Ali Shimkus

Jan. 31 // 9:00 p.m // Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room
Feb. 1 // 3:00 p.m // Library Center Theatre Park City

Read more of SLUG’s comprehensive coverage of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.