Dir: Dein Perry. Australia. 2000. 96 mins.
Prod co: Bootmen Productions. Worldwide dist: 20th Century Fox. Exec producer: Dein Perry. Producer: Hilary Linstead. Co-producer: Antonia Barnard. Scr: Steve Worland . DoP: Steve Mason. Prod des: Murray Picknett. Ed: Jane Moran. Composer: Cezary Skubiszewski. Main cast: Adam Garcia, Sam Worthington, Sophie Lee.
Australian choreographer Dein Perry's high-energy stage shows, "Tap Dogs" and "Steel City", have been touring the world for five years. His new project is this equally macho movie, a frankly fictionalised account of his unlikely teenaged journey from fitter and turner to tap dancing star and choreographer.
Extraordinarily, for he had no film experience, Perry elected to direct. It's a tribute to his drive and team-trusting leadership (and to the work of producer Hilary Linstead, better know as one of Australia's top creative agents) that Bootmen could well attract a new popular audience for filmed dance.
Comparisons with The Full Monty are inevitable: the steel works are doomed, generations-long job security has disappeared, our hero's scheme to form a male dancing troupe is regarded as a sure sign of madness and/or dubious sexuality. But Perry is disinterested in politics, replacing the British film's social agenda with an aggressive mix of drinking, brawling, car-chasing and girl-swapping.
The soapy good-brother-bad-brother plotting holds interest only thanks to the genuine sweetness of an inexperienced cast, some striking Australian locations, the breathless pace of the editing and the general technical excellence of the production. Local box office prospects look good when it opens on October 5 (it opens in the US the following day), especially if Fox pushes hard.
Internationally, the film's hopes lie mostly in its many thrilling dance sequences. Amplified boots bash on girders, grids, scaffolding, stainless steel toilets and all known workshop surfaces, often accompanied by full-throttle heavy metal rock. The spirit of Fred Astaire is invoked in a traditional staircase routine (featuring Perry himself), but it's the more robust shade of Gene Kelly that rules here.