Filmed beginning to end during the last concert of their 2004 tour, the Beastie Boys‘ feature-length concert documentary "Awesome: I F**kin’ Shot That!" (screened at Sundance) is much more than your average captured-on-tape performance video; it’s a mind-blowing, kinetic audio-visual extravaganza that will make a Beastie fan out of any viewer.
Director Nathanial Hornblower (AKA Beastie Boy Adam Yauch) opens the film in real time, as the fifty lucky ticket-holding fans selected to be "camera operators" are each given a camera and told to shoot whatever they want during the concert, as long as they shoot it in its entirety. DJ extraordinaire Mix Master Mike makes his way through the arena at Madison Square Garden as thousands of screaming fans roar in anticipation, and the three MCs — MCA (Adam Yauch), Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), and Mike D (Mike Diamond) — go through their pre-game motions backstage.
What follows is 90 minutes of fast cuts, pulsating beats, a voracious hometown crowd and seamless, electric performances by the Beastie Boys. The playlist reads like a best-of list as they cover their entire twenty-year discography, including a pace-breaking mid-set interlude of instrumental songs. If nothing else, it’s apparent that the trio can still put on an intense, balls-out live performance.
But what makes "Awesome" so much more than just a phenomenal concert is its visual styling as a film. Given no creative restrictions, each camera operator chooses different aspects of the concert to film, from straight-up shots of the Beastie Boys on stage to their fellow fans in the audience reveling in the show (or, truthfully, sitting bemusedly in the upper nosebleeds). One camera follows its owner to the restroom; another captures a wild-eyed Ben Stiller in the audience, feverishly rapping every line by heart. Director-producer Yauch edits all fifty sets of footage (plus a few professionally shot sequences, for added measure) together perfectly, adding digitized visual effects that ebb and flow with the tone of the music. By the end of the film, you feel the same post-show buzz that fans in attendance obviously felt; when Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor show up as credits roll, your ears are ringing just like theirs.
It was after seeing a fan’s 30-second camera-phone clip of themselves in concert posted on a message board that the Beastie Boys got the idea to shoot an entire concert. Amazingly, they managed to pull production plans together only three days before the last date of their "To the 5 Boroughs" tour; furthermore, it wasn’t until they viewed the resulting footage that they realized their film — intended originally as a concert DVD — had theatrical potential.
Beastie lovers will love the larger than life, big-screen treatment and will inevitably add the DVD to their collection; those that weren’t already fans will not only convert after seeing "Awesome," they’ll swear they’d been to a concert.