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IN SHORT: Heavy metal industrial strength tap dancing Stomp. [Rated R for some violence and a scene of sexuality. 93 minutes]
One of the big surprises to come out of Australia a couple of years back was Strictly Ballroom, an ugly duckling story set against a background of ballroom dancing competitions. While the dance style in Bootmen is tap, the story is not about competition. It is about survival. The film's story is reminiscent, in many ways, of parts of films that have come before; Saturday Night Fever through The Full Monty, for us. The dance story and sequences are inspired by director Dein Perry's own touring show Tap Dogs and bits and pieces of his own biography.
In this case the story is one jackboot thumping, heavy metal scored tap stomping after another. Well, almost. The story that gets you from Point A to B is fairly ordinary, but the point is to get to the big production number finale. Once metal plates get screwed onto the bottom of workboots, the tap numbers get wicked good.
It is the steelworkers that dominate blue-collar Newcastle Australia. A life in the works is a life "waiting to fall into the big machines" says Sean Okden (Adam Garcia, click for StarTalk). Habitually late to work and on the cusp of being sacked, Sean is steered to an audition for a big 1930s style song and dance show in Sydney -- Sean learned tap as a way to meet girls, it is explained -- and darn if it doesn't work. At the audition, Cupid's arrow hits home in the form of Linda (Sophie Lee) which almost takes the sting out of being booted by a Bob Fosse wannabe (Andrew Doyle) who doesn't like his improvisations. Minds, we all know, can change. Forty eight hours, and a commitment not to consummate, later, Sean is off to Sydney. "He'll never come back," says brother Mitch (Sam Worthington) to Linda, who then tries to do what younger brothers will do.
Mitch, to the delight of his widowed steelworker dad (Richard Carter) is saving his money to buy a trucking rig. A "real" job. Unbeknownst to all, Mitch's gig isn't on the up and up and his last "employer" (Anthony Hayes), doesn't like the new competition. Mitch's unexpected return from Sydney . . . well, you're smart enough to figure it out.
Bootmen moves at a rapid clip. So fast that you won't be able to guess a lot of the details until just before they surface in the story. We've only covered the First Act, and we've still left out a lot, because the story gets you to the big production finale that you walk in expecting and includes a much better reason for staging the finale than just "putting on a show".
The tap team that Sean puts together allows Bootmen to stage dance numbers in unusual places. Strip clubs. Industrial bathrooms. On top of working machines in the machine shop. While the team holds its own, we'll note that Garcia is a stage pro and that his dancing is spectacular (though the press notes say a few of the closeups are of director Perry's feet). Simply, these guys stomp up a storm. They stomp on wire fence walls. They stomp on industrial grating. They stomp on steel I-beams. And, oh yeah, I love the sight and sound of it all.
I've made a heavy handed point but I'm American and Stomp has been playing down the street for years. Our West Coast rep Paul Fischer is Australian, his review is here. And while we can't vouch for the start of the stage shows, Tap Dogs hit video in 1996. Stomp went to video a year later. First blood, at least film wise, to Bootmen. To see it yourself, click for Tap Dogs: VHS or DVD; click for Stomp: VHS or DVD
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bootmen, he would have paid...
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