Tap (1989)

Tap (1989)Synopsis:

Cat burglar and ex-dancer, Max Washington (Gregory Hines, White Nights), has just been released from jail. As he asses his options, Max must decide between returning to his old criminal ways and a life on the stage.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Tap is a surprisingly engaging homage to the dying art of tap dancing, nicely written and directed by Nick Castle (The Last Starfighter and The Boy Who Could Fly), and energetically performed by a great cast of ‘Who’s Who’ in the tap dance world — the moment Gregory Hines starts hitting the floor I found myself totally mesmerized by the fabulous choreography (by Henry LeTang).

I also enjoyed how writer & director Castle combined the hoofing with classic noir elements. Haines’s character is clearly modeled after the quintessential noir hero and the film’s visual style — underlit sets and quirky camera angles — is patterned after the hard-boiled melodramas of the late forties. The noir touches give the story a little extra kick that I found very interesting and appealing.

I’ve seen many musicals with tap dance sequences, but this the first time I watch a movie entirely devoted to this type of dancing. The “old hat” storyline offers few surprises, but like in most music & dance movies, the narrative is secondary to the hoofing. And when the dance is this good, I’ll be the last person to complain about a few clichés.

There is a particularly fantastic sequence with Hines entering a dance duel with a group of veterans hoofers (Bunny Briggs, Arthur Duncan, Steve Condos, Howard Sims, Harold Nicholas, and Jimmy Slyde). Oh yes, and you get to see Sammy Davis, Jr. do his thing one last time — he died not long after the film was released. Seeing Hines and Davis share the dance floor is worth your time alone. The cast also includes Suzzanne Douglas, Savion Glover, Joe Morton, and Terrence E. McNally.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Tap was a nice surprise. And while the story is just okay, there is no denying that the talented cast and the dance numbers make the film very enjoyable. Color, 111 minute, Rated PG.

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3 responses to “Tap (1989)

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