Friday, March 15, 2013

Movie Review: Slam Dance (1987) Dir. Wayne Wang

Hot kiss. Cold sweat. Last chance. Slamdance.

Slam Dance by Wayne Wang
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Blurb: A married cartoonist, C.C. Drood, becomes involved in the cover up of a political sex scandal after his lover, Yolanda, a call girl, is found murdered. An obvious case of arrested development Drood is unable to take care of himself let alone his estranged wife and daughter. Bodies pile up and a strange hit man appears at random intervals; crossing paths with good cop/bad cop combo Smiley and Gilbert, Drood is a million miles from his comfort zone and must find a way to survive.

Thoughts: If you take the subversion of the noir genre of Altman's The Long Goodbye, disconnect it by a further 45 degrees and set it in the late 80s then you're somewhere near approaching Wayne Wang's Slam Dance from the right angle.

There's no way this could ever have a wide appeal but I congratulate the producers for their bravery in persevering with what must have been a truly peculiar script. It's not at David Lynch levels of surreal but I imagine the outcome of him directing it wouldn't be too dissimilar to Mulholland Drive.

Having said that, I did read that the producers interfered with the director's creativity so perhaps this actually is just a mess rather than a deliberate study of the decay of Hollywoodland? Essentially I could well be talking out of my arse but I could go in to great detail about the use of light and mirrors as metaphors of the underlying meaning of the film in true film noir style if I were so inclined. Wayne Wang really did a good job with that aspect.

Wayne Wang and DoP Amir Mokri craft incredibly beautiful shots one after another; they really studied the greats of the genre and created the perfect visual experience, it's just let down by a plot that seems to be lacking any real cause or effect to make much sense, that, and a near constant soft porn saxophone soundtrack.

The acting is surprisingly great, almost uniformly so, and the cast is packed with interesting people worth watching - Harry Dean Stanton almost looks young, Adam Ant doesn't look like a new wave singer turned actor, Virginia Madsen is stunning and Tom Hulce an unusual choice for the protagonist but putting in a good shift as a cross between 80s Rob Lowe and 80s Mickey Rourke, dealing with both lighter moments and existentialist scenes punctuated with violence with ease.

For fans of noir and neo-noir this one deserves to be seen but not necessarily understood.

Did you see this? Do you think that synopsis even sounds vaguely interesting? Would you like to see Rob Lowe star opposite Mickey Rourke in a movie? Perhaps a Farrelly Brothers comedy? Can anyone explain Wayne Wang's career trajectory? Leave me some comments.


  1. Never heard of this, but the premise and the cast have me intrigued. I'll add it to my watchlist.

    1. One day you'll see it and think "why the fuck did I watch that?" and hopefully forget it was me who recommended it. Have you seen other Wayne Wang movies? Smoke, featuring Harvey Keitel was a very interesting film.

    2. I've seen parts of Because of Winn-Dixie and Last Holiday, but I'm sure those aren't his best work. ;)