In its opening stretch, The After Party goes to great lengths to establish its hip-hop bona fides. After an amusing opening, which finds Owen -- who performs under the name OH! -- rapping for a record label intern in the bathroom, we get a scene that's clearly meant to flex the movie's musical knowledge. A "serious" student of the genre, Owen dutifully lists his top five rappers as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, ASAP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, and Pusha T; a goofy white guy who styles himself like the fourth member of Migos, Jeff lists his top five as OH!, Quavo, Lil Uzi, Lil Wayne, and Lil Pump. In one of the movie's many cameos, New York rap elder-statesman Jadakiss appears as a train conductor who attempts to school the boys on Rakim, but the guys end up knowing all the words to 1986's "Eric B. is President." See, the filmmakers seem to be saying, they're not as lame as they look.
The same can't be said of the movie's plot, which hinges on a contrived ticking-clock set-up and drummed-up emotional stakes. Before a performance hosted by radio and TV personality Charlemagne, Owen smokes a blunt with Wiz Khalifa and ends up projectile vomiting during his set, earning the tasteless nickname "Seizure Boy" as clips of his performance spread across the internet. He's quickly a viral punchline and a topic of conversation in rap's larger digital ecosystem. Embarrassed, Owen decides to join the marines like his father (an effective but underused Blair Underwood) and abandon his rap game goals.
A persistent and well-funded rich kid, Jeff can't accept this, so he arranges for Owen to rap for a record label executive backstage at a French Montana concert in Manhattan. More interested in sleeping with Jeff's sister Alicia (Teen Wolf's Shelley Hennig), Owen tags along for the ride and the expected After Hours-lite hijinks, including a car and motorcycle chase, ensue. In between Brooklyn loft parties and strip-club detours, we get lots of groaners like, "I'm gonna Venmo the shit out of you girl" and "He's deader than dubstep." At one point, Owen impresses Alicia with his knowledge of French New Wave cinema by proclaiming, "Obviously, Breathless is my shit."