I’d originally toyed with the idea of asking my girlfriend to write a “guest review” of this film. After all, I reasoned, wouldn’t it make much more sense to get a woman’s perspective on a documentary about male strippers? That, and the fact that if she wrote the review, I could avoid having to watch seventy-six minutes of ego-deflating, muscle-bound hard bodies rippling across the screen.
Then she had to have major neck surgery and I, perhaps erring on the side of caution, chose to watch the film and write the review myself after all, thus alleviating my fear of her developing whiplash from craning her neck to watch the aforementioned muscle-bound hard bodies rippling across the screen.
Chivalry is not dead.
I needn’t have worried about whiplash, however. Instead, the bigger threat to her surgically repaired neck would have come from her chin drooping to her neck in a boredom-induced slumber. Oh, would that director Adam Ballachey’s tepid documentary contains as much drama as it does bulging pecs. Alas, that’s not the case.
Instead, the film follows four relatively milk-toast male dancers for more than three years. We meet Robbie Wild, a plumber’s son who started the Sunn Coast Calendar Men dance troupe instead of following in his father’s footsteps. There’s Johnny Styles, a steroid-injecting gigolo who preys on wealthy women to get by. Baby Jay is a young rebellious stud who leaves home at the age of eighteen to cope with his mother’s terminal illness. Finally, there’s Tarzana Tarantino, a good-hearted if dim-witted hulk who vainly hopes to parlay his fading career as a dancer into that of a professional wrestler or boxer.
Clearly the seeds of conflict, drama and pathos are present with these four characters. Yet, somehow this film lets all these juicy possibilities lay fallow, glossing over what could have been moments of intense drama such as Johnny’s current mark booting him out or the formation of a rebellious splinter dance troupe from within the ranks of the Calendar Men.
Yes, this film could have removed its thongs and bared all by using the misadventures of its four main characters to really underscore and illuminate the strange and seedy world of male exotic dancing. Instead, “American Dancer” drifts along limply, demonstrating as much emotion and intensity as a skanky stripper’s 4:00 AM lap dance.