Film: Charlie Ahearn – Wild Style

by Alicia White-Platt

Magazine     >    Reviews

Written by Alicia White-Platt for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by
Courtesy of Charlie Ahearn and Rhino Home Video

4.5 out of 5 stars


WASHINGTON, DC (Thursday, September 26, 2013) Being a hip-hop enthusiast, I grew up listening to rap music and being mystified by the break dance and popping phenomenons during my adolescence. The impromptu performances in shopping malls, roller rinks, and street corners, left an indelible impression on me. I was another casualty of the hip-hop culture and it had taken a large bite out of me! With that in mind, it was an nostalgic experience for me as I viewed, Charlie Ahearn‘s Wild Style movie.

Released in 1983 and coined “the first hip-hop movie,” the work was written, produced and directed by Mr. Ahearn. Abandoned streets, transit yards and subway terminals in New York City late at night, serves as the backdrop to this story. The main character; an aspiring artist, “Zoro” (Raymond Lee Quinones), introduces the viewer to the world of street graffiti – HIS WORLD. In his quest to master and excel at his craft, the protagonist networks and develops relationships with some of the most influential names in the history of the genre.

B-Boy’s at work in Charlie Ahearn’s “Wild Style”

To analyze the film in literary terms, this dramatic piece; full of action, effectively captures the mood of the central character, and suggests the urgency for not only his personal but, a communal breakthrough. The technique of montage employed, the strategic usage of dialogue as well as, sound, were skillfully integrated to add depth to the storyline.

The introduction of graffiti served many purposes. First and foremost, it was the platform by which these artists could beautify and bring a sense of community to the urban streets; although deemed illegal. By incorporating this, the story’s writer successfully underscores the bond between graffiti art images and the overall hip-hop culture. He shows that through the marriage of graffiti art to the movement, a unique and creative expression was born. In similitude, rap music was purposed to uplift, encourage and entertain. This platform further enlightened the world to the plight of the disadvantaged and impoverished areas in our nation and the daily chaos therein. Likewise, the movie’s soundtrack (produced by Fab 5 Freddy) successfully fused base lines, melodic beats in conjunction with, rhythmic and fluid poetry, in a how you like me now way.

Promotional image from Charlie Ahearn’s “Wild Style”

Additionally, Ahearn’s use of the element of dance: breaking, popping and miming, introduced new forms of movement, which serves as the catalyst and foundation for most of the current hip-hop dance moves today. Ahearn brings relevance to the subject matter by combining all of the elements of this culture into one spectacularly entertaining and culminating event. The movie’s cast was well over 50, with performances by such hip-hop greats as Fab 5 Freddy (creator of the movie’s soundtrack and also played the character “Phade”), Busy Bee, Lisa Lee, and the Cold Crush Brothers, to name just a few, all doing what they do best.

Performers on stage in Charlie Ahearn’s “Wild Style”
Scene from Charlie Ahearn’s “Wild Style”

Although the storyline was slow to follow at the onset, the sound snippets and performances captured absolutely made up for it. Likewise, the more sensitive material; suggestive images and mature language content, were tastefully displayed. Overall, an enjoyable and enlightening movie for teenagers and adults alike. A Good Look!

Cast members from Charlie Ahearn’s “Wild Style”

In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, Music Box Films Home Entertainment is releasing Wild Style: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition on DVD beginning October 1st. It will also have a limited re-release in selected theaters.

For more information on Charlie Ahearn’s Wild Style, visit
Wild Style B-Boy clip:
Wild Style theatrical trailer:

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