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 energetically performed by a great cast of “who’s who” in the tap dance world.
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 — Tap is all about … tap dancing! The retro 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.
The moment Gregory Hines starts hitting the floor I found myself totally mesmerized by his seemingly endless energy and the fabulous choreography (by American choreographer and a dance instructor Henry LeTang, The Cotton Club).
I also enjoyed how filmmaker Castle combines the hoofing with classic noir elements. Haines’s character is clearly modeled after the quintessential noir (anti)hero and the film’s visual style — underlit sets and dutch 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.
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 (Jason’s Lyric), and Joe Morton (The Brother from Another Planet).
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.