dir Dein Perry scr Steve Worland
with Adam Garcia, Sam Worthington, Sophie Lee, Richard Carter, William Zappa, Christopher Horsey, Lee McDonald, Drew Kaluski, Matt Lee, Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter, Grant Walmsley
Fox 00/Australia 2 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
Tap Dogs creator Dein Perry moves to the big screen with a film that really should have been titled Tap Dogs: The Movie (why wasn't it?). Shamelessly stealing story elements from his own life, The Full Monty, Flashdance and scores of other like-minded films, Bootmen is a story about overcoming obstacles, doing something with your life, finding real love and respect, making the most of a tough situation, and so forth. You know the drill.

Sean (Garcia) lives in lots of shadows: deceased mother, morose father (Carter), golden-boy big brother Mitch (Worthington), dead-end job in a steelworks, innate talent for tap dancing going to waste. Did someone say tap dancing? For some inexplicable reason, it seems that Sean, Mitch and their friends (Horsey, McDonald, Kaluski, Lee)--although losers on the outside--are ace tapsters. So when things start going wrong, why not put on a show to restore some self respect and raise money for a good cause. Along the way, of course, Sean falls (quickly) for a lovely young dancer (Lee), who is caught between the two brothers. And Mitch gets himself in serious trouble with the vile Huey (Hayes), simply because the film needed a villain for us to hiss at.

Sigh. The story and dialog are so corny that it almost sucks our breath away, and Perry struggles to direct any scene that doesn't feature dancing, making up for his deficiencies with an insistently powerhouse score, whizzy camera work and flash-bang editing. The dance sequences, on the other hand, are marvellous--astounding high-energy set pieces that work wonderfully (although not as well as Lars von Trier's brilliant use of ambient rhythms in Dancer in the Dark). And to put it mildly, the Big Finale is just a wee bit too impressive for a bunch of no-hopers with no money, borrowing equipment, practicing in their spare time and relying on someone's cousin Newt (Walmsley) for music. It looks strangely like the opening ceremony of a recent Olympics (Perry designed and choreographed the tap segment), on about the same scale. But never mind. After all the ghastly dialogue, schmaltzy romance and amateurish filmmaking that comes before, it's good enough to leave you smiling and tapping out of the cinema.

[15--themes, language, violence] 2.Oct.00
US release 6.Oct.00; UK release 9.Feb.00

Winner of five Australian Film Institute awards: score, cinematography, production design, editing and sound (also nominated for film, director and actor Worthington).

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall