Review: VH1 Original Movie ‘The Breaks’ Is a Hilarious Tribute to Hip-Hop and Dreams (Premieres Tonight)

Review: VH1 Original Movie 'The Breaks’ Is a Hilarious Tribute to Hip-Hop and Dreams (Premieres Tonight)

Whether you were born and raised in New York, or you arrived with nothing but a dollar and some dreams, the city will humble you with a quickness. It’s a town that demands wits, ingenuity and fearlessness; no matter what industry you’re tying to break into. In order to make it here, you have to be a doer and a hustler, or else, opportunities will simply pass you by. I’ve lived in NYC for seven years now, and the hustle mentality is something I’m still learning every day.

VH1’s latest original film, “The Breaks,” is a movie that suggests that the grind in this town is nothing new. It’s a story about passion and the things that can break you before you even get started. 

Set in the summer of 1990, Seith Mann’s “The Breaks” follows three 20-somethings – Nikki Jones, David Aaron and DeeVee – who are all scrambling after their dreams, desperate to reach them by any means necessary. The city can be a lot to handle today, but back then, the crime-riddled streets were even grittier. Mann brilliantly captures the grey caste, graffiti, chunky gold, and most importantly, the music of the era. 
Inspired by journalist Dan Charnas’ novel on hip-hop business, entitled “The Big Payback,” we meet Nikki Jones (played by Afton Williamson), a recent grad, who turns down a scholarship to Harvard Law School in order to hustle her way into a internship at Fouray Entertainment, a big shot entertainment company. Williamson’s performance as Nikki is brilliant, and, quite frankly, she carried much of the film on her shoulders. Despite the naysayers and the sexism that continually permeates the hip-hop music business, Nikki’s quick thinking and sharp tongue keep the men—and women—around her in check.  Some of the best lines in the film spill out of her mouth, instantly inciting laughter from the audience. And yet, the most brilliant thing about her character is the fact that you never quite know who she is, or if you even like her by the end of the film.  
With barely a coin to her name when she arrives in the city, Nikki shacks up with her boo-thang, David Aaron (played by David Call) — the son of a legendary record executive who refuses to live in his father’s shadow. (Despite the fact that he and Nikki are living in his daddy’s apartment rent-free.) Though David’s path is different from Nikki’s, it’s one that many millennials will be able to relate to, especially when it comes to pushing back against the “old” way of doing things. Nikki and David’s love of hip-hop came at a time when many old-time executives didn’t expect hip-hop music to last another five years. This is particularly difficult when your boss is as icky and velvety as Russell Hornsby’s portrayal of DJ Sampson. 
“The Breaks” also reunites “The Wire” alums, Mack Wilds and Wood Harris. Wilds stars as DeeVee, a college dropout and aspiring producer who returns to his childhood home at the Fort Greene Housing Projects in Brooklyn, in search of the next dope MC. On the other hand, Wood Harris, in a role that is somewhat reminiscent of his days as drug Kingpin Avon Barksdale, plays Barry Fouray— Fouray Entertainment’s founder. As Nikki struggles to find her footing at the company, she discovers that Barry just might be more infatuated with the limelight then his actual day-to-day business. 
As I tend to be when it comes to made-for-TV films, I was skeptical when I first heard about “The Breaks”, but I was glad to be proven wrong. With classic ‘90s hits like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonnita Applebum”, Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison,” and Johnny Gill’s “My My My” sprinkled though this love-letter to hip-hop and dreams, VH1’s third foray into original films is their best effort yet.

“The Breaks” is hilarious, well acted, and speaks not only to 20-somethings, but to anyone who ever had a dream, and did everything in their power to try and achieve it. After all, as one character says in the film, “… business rewards hustlers.” 

“The Breaks” premieres tonight, Monday, January 4 at 9PM ET/PT on VH1.

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Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at http://www.chocolategirlinthecity.com/ or tweet her @midnightrami


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Comments

Ramon

The movie was great..looking forward the series. I was living in NY in Brooklyn during those years and your capture of the inner city neighborhood is on point.

Stephan W.

Will there be part 2? Dope movie

dynasty

The breaks is soooo good. I need part 2..there has to be one. Vh1 you have me hooked

Steven Ramsey

Great movie can’t wait to see more!

T Graphic

OH MY BAD YALL WOOD HARRIS BROTHER DOESN’T PLAY FOR ARIZONA CARDINALS BUT HE DOES LOOK LIKE HIM BUT HIS REAL BROTHER IS AN ACTOR OF THAT TYLER PERRY MOVIE STEVE HARRIS IS WOODS BROTHER MY BAD WOOD.

T Graphic

Hey guys where’s part 2 at yo wood harris and mack wilds know they stuff hey they were off the chain in the wire so u know what up with the breaks man wood keep doing ya thing dog hey wood u think ya bro going to win the super bowl dog hope so right he deserve it for u cats that don’t know his brother plays for Arizona Cardinals they look just a like hey,wood I’m a harris to from New Orleans love all tv shows and movies bra but man there gotta be a part to to the breaks man oh and Mack wilds why yall didn’t make ya dad in the movie aka The METHOD MAN spit a verse or do one song him and red man off the chain or just him alone on the mic is a fool bra yall just gotta give him the microphone at least dog.We will see in part 2

T Graphic

Man the film is off the chain bra please will there be a part 2 can somebody tell me that Oh and wood harris which is also my last ne as well aka avon Barksdale is a fool love the guy yo

ash

Really enjoyed the movie waiting for part 2 cause the way it ended i know theres more dont make us wait to long

Sean

Have to turn this into a series.

Shamgod 501

Great movie, it captured the scene of hip-hop’s birth place perfectly. It showed the hustle, drive, and attitude it took for people to make this new form of art, this poetry, to last. Shouts out to the cast and crew of The Breaks and to VH1 for a dope film. I expect to see more.

Kristina

Great movie!!!! I loved it really hope there will be a part 2 or even a tv series. Great job!!!!

Jade

Amazing….i hope they keep it coming..

yentil

This movie was absolutely the best movie I have seen in sometime ask him if we see a series made out of there I would love to watch you so please bring back the brakes turn it into a serious we have a hit!!!!

Ms. Danni

Will there be a part 2?

JonB

@SAADIYAH… Thank you for letting me know I am not alone. All I kept saying to myself was 1) I bet I am only person that realized the misuse of Prince Paul as a bootleg tape dude 2) Those rap battle scenes were not even close to what it was like in the 90s (just ask anyone who hung out at Washington square Park on Friday and saturday nights back then when dudes would get into battles or ciphers or anyone that used to tear the village voice apart trying to find out where and when the next lyricist lounge was going to pop off. 3) No one in that battle scene had on a BACKPACK???? come on man that’s quintessential 90s! I am looking forward to that joint The Get Down though. That looks like it may bring it.

Megga

Tha troof

DaWILDMAN

Man, I waited like a child waiting in Santa for this movie, and what the heck happen to the end,, this movie was great but the ending was like huh ? Is there a part 2? Has to be if not then VH1 you will win the "Worlds Dumbest Ending" award I am sure. !! Hope there is another part coming and by the way. We was together all day.. You got it

Dani

The problem with an overstretched pilot masquerading as a TV movie is expectation mismanagement. As I was watching “The Breaks,” I was confused because not much was happening and there wasn’t enough time to conclude what little story there was. Did it leave me wanting more? I guess I’m curious enough. Afton Williamson as Nikki Jones was compelling. No matter how meandering the story, I paid attention when she was on the screen. I was not into David Call as David Aaron, nor did I believe Nikki would be. Their love scenes were unconvincing. Not sure how I feel about MC Sociopath. His staring at nothing constantly was a bit much. Of course, the soundtrack was great. However, I hope if they continue they get a choreographer to pay more attention to the dancing. I chuckled at the club scene with people swaying and grooving to LL’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” That is NOT how people in a club in 1990 would be moving to that song. That floor would be shook!

Mateo

Loved the movie, took me back to my younger days. Gotta have more of it don’t leave me hanging

e

Dope show like the whole plot keep it coming

Johnny

Amazing

rel

I really couldn’t get into it. I wanted to like this film, but the story was completely uninteresting except for the DeeVee storyline.

michael pepaj

Great movie, left me with a couple questions at the end though. What happened to the gangster? ( with the buck fifty?), also, what did the boss say to nicki ….. did yu really meet me years ago? I didn’t get that part. Other than that , great movie

tony

I’m looking forward to part 2 or a series but yall killed me when it just went off like that I am so pissed need part 2 or series quick I am hyped to see what’s next

Mike. W

I loved it! I hope there is a part 2, because i need to know what happens. …

Tracie

What was the very last line in the movie ??

Smith V

I hope this becomes a series. I absolutely loved it.

Butta B

What di hellll.. I thought tonight was part 2.. How do you end a movie like that..

Shamara

I want to see more! Series please! I need it

rocnrodhard

It’s like a hiphop Wiz of Oz down the yellow brick road of 90s Nyc rap world

Lisa

PART 2?

nia

Say man…..This mos def needs to make its way to prime time!!!! I’m patiently waiting to see the series….how can we as fans make that happen?!?!

Loved it brings back memories

Loved it brings back memories where’s part 2 coming

saadiyah

@JONB – Most people who were around in the 1990’s and actually listened to hip hop feel the same way you do. It’s these kids that got hyped over this boring lackluster depiction of that time.

Lorentavious t Robinson

That was a great short film! Wish there was a part 2 can’t wait if there is one in the making.I would love to be apart of a movement such as this one it would be an wonderful experience "The Breaks"

Tammy C

I love this movie. I was so disappointed when it ended. I tried to record it as a series but there was no option for a series recording. I then searched the Internet asking if there was a part two and when will it air. Now I’m making a comment saying "Please give us a part two"

Ray

Definitely need this. Will be way better than Empire

JonB

Did you all see the same movie I did? Maybe its just me but I grew up here in the 90s and the best part of the movie was the soundtrack. The plot was weak and some of the acting was generic at best. The best scene was when we finally see Wood Harris again after about hour and 30 minutes or so into the film and the confrontation with the road manager happens. I loved Seith Mann’s short and his a good deal of his TV work but this film/script could have been so much better. Just my two cents.

Brandon

I hope this is turning into a tv series. It’s too good to be a one time movie. This will be up there with Power and Empire. Can have huge success

Amber

When can I see pt 2,3,4&5 luved it can’t wait to see more!!!!

Jacqueline

I liked the movie but i didnt like the way it went off it leaves u with alot of unanswered questions. Where is part 2?

Cha

Enjoyed the movie, well scripted,acted.music scores. I need more.VH1 MORE

Dianne

I really enjoyed the movie and actually thought ut was a series in which it should be.

Arnold

The breaks is dope… Word.

gwen

Please keep it coming. I think they have a series.

Fanhop

Love this film ! Great cast definitely want to see more. Vh1 needs to make this into a series. Don’t leave us hanging, we want more.

Eirinique

Wait a minute so there’s more coming right? Was DeeVee blamed for that murder?

Carolyn c

Love the story love liove the music! Esp AHM! ��.. That song is a beast

Salena

Omgggg love the breaks please tell me there’s more coming

Dannisaffair

Loved it! I hope more is coming. I don’t like the way it ended.

Cyndi B

Love this movie. Really, REALLY hope it becomes a series or at least a part 2. Love the "AHM" character, he’s so mysterious. More please!

freddy ramirez

Love the movie .I want more …. hope that they make more…

kevin

We need more you cant just leave in awwwww .it was good but it just cant end like that

Tawana

PISSED AT THE ENDING CMON NOW WTF

Tawana

wtf why did it end like that NEED MORE ASAP how bout a SERIES OMG I’m so mad at how it ends

PheeIB

Speaks to the hip-hop heads more so than Empire, in my opinion. Gets to the foundation and shaping and molding of different aspects of Hip-Hop.

tmason

Could be better than empire if you make it a tv series. Loved it watching it for the second time!!!!!

Jamil

The movie is dope I jus hope there is more to it or I’ll be disappointed cause I really want I see what happens next !!!

Nfamitrust

Yo, the movie was crazy. Great cast, great storyline and CRAZY soundtrack. VH1 reeled me in, don’t leave me hanging, I need MORE!!! Where’s part two? IJS

Cheryl R.

Great movie can’t wait to see more.

Ed C

Very good movie hope it becomes a series…Great lookn@ Rap

Debbie

I really enjoy the breaks love it keep it coming I think u have a hit

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