Slam Dance (1987)

 “She betrayed me.”

Cartoonist Drood (Tom Hulce) is drawn into a web of corruption, blackmail and deceit in the neo-noir thriller, Slam Dance from director Wayne Wang. Drood is a disconnected character who exists in a peculiar apartment, avoiding deadlines, contact with the outside world, and parental responsibilities. When Drood, who’s separated from his wife, Helen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is kidnapped and beaten by two strangers, he turns to the police for help. While being questioned by detectives, he discovers that his lover Yolanda Caldwell (Virginia Madsen) has been murdered, and that he’s labeled a suspect. Drood, who has a lifetime habit of avoiding responsibility, shrugs off Yolanda’s murder–or at least he tries to ….

Slam Dance exudes an atmosphere of the bizarre and the weird set against the murder of the mysterious Yolanda. Yolanda’s death, and Drood’s unexplained kidnapping are freak occurrences in a surreal world. The film establishes this atmosphere by the well-placed use of background devices–such as radio talk shows reporting alien abductions. Drood’s stone-deaf, loony landlady adds to the atmosphere with her theories of post offices conspiracies, and Drood, whose character gradually shifts from passivity to action, discovers the hard way that nothing is quite what it seems.

While the film’s neo-noir style is nicely established (with shades of David Lynch), the film’s plot holes are enough to trip even the most determined. By the film’s conclusion, there are far too many questions, and a sense of lingering annoyance at the more preposterous aspects of the plot. Adam Ant has a fairly small part as club owner, Jim, and fans will want to see him in the film. Mary Mastrantonio seems horribly miscast as Drood’s wife. All in all, rather disappointing.

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Filed under Film Noir

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