Steel Mill Tap Dancers
Release Date: October 06, 2000
Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 110 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox
Director: Dein Perry
Writer: Steve Worland
Address Comments To:Lindsay Law, President
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
A Division of Fox, Inc.
10201 West Pico Blvd., Bldg. 38
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-4402
BOOTMEN starts rough and crude. Sean Okden (Adam Garcia) hates his job as a machine shop worker in the Australian steel mill town where he grew up. He arrives for work late one morning, and the foreman threatens to fire him for one more day’s tardiness. He fiddles around the shop, biding his time.
Like his movie counterpart, Tony Manero, the central character in 1977’s SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, Sean lives for the night, when he can join his friends in the local tap dance hall adjacent to the mill. There, he meets attractive blonde hairdresser, Linda, (Sophie Lee), who returns his affections. Sean teaches her dance steps as they walk together in the pounding Australian surf. At the tap dance hall, he learns dance steps under the strict tutelage of a handicapped instructor who tells him to keep to his dance, and not to improvise.
Sean, however, does improvise. When a French tap dance professional visits the tap dance hall on a recruitment drive for a Sydney troupe, Sean taps out enough improvised steps to attract his attention. The recruiter invites him to Sydney to join a professional top hat and tails tap dance troupe. His father refuses to let him go to the big city, but Sean, cocky, rebellious, and ambitious, defies him, quitting the mill. Practicing with the other dancers in an elegant stair stage number with stairs, he gets himself fired by making passes at the lead male dancer’s fiancé.
Sean returns home, where he finds Linda in bed with his brother, Mitchell (Sam Worthington). That provokes the movie’s main romantic crisis. His father helps him get a job at the steel mill. There, Sean nails big metal cleats to his workboots. Sean dreams of the unheard-of artistic departure: Working-class tap dancers wearing hard hats, performing routines in front of working class audiences. One of his recruits sums it up: “Our routines are no different than any other tap dance; it’s just that we wear different hats.”
As before, at night, he pursues his dream. Back at the tap dance hall, Sean invites his friends, the local tap dance teachers, to join his troupe. In a comic moment, one recruit taps out a beat against steel toilets in a steel mill bathroom. Sean’s dream gains momentum as he finds a cheap stage in a vacant steel mill hall, replete with used machinery against which his troupe improvises various clever moves. He invites a rock and roll band to play the hard-driving music that would keep the audience engaged.
Complications ensue, however. A flashy thug, who competes with Sean’s brother Mitchell in stealing cars, murders him in a knife fight at the top of a catwalk from which he falls to his death. Mitchell’s funeral temporarily tolls the death knell for Sean’s tap dance dream.
Suddenly, however, the steel mill closes, throwing thousands of Aussie steelworkers out of work and precipitating a local economic crisis. A friend suggests to Sean that he stage a tap dance performance to raise funds for worker retraining.
Whereas STRICTLY BALLROOM pits one dancer’s unconventional dancing against the established Australian Ballroom Dance Confederation’s entrenched traditions, BOOTMEN pits a tap dancer against the entrenched disbelief and inertia of hourly wage workers who essentially have no vision for any artistic achievement whatsoever. Then, as if the chorus line was any more glamorous than the factory, Sean forms his dance troupe, rallying the townspeople behind him. In that way, director Dein Perry proves that blue-collar workers can and do enthusiastically participate in dancing and music, despite their rude and crude social environment.
All in all, BOOTMEN is an entertaining movie, with a compelling storyline, which delivers engrossing entertainment. Regrettably, with a strong romantic worldview, graphic thug violence and implied fornication with no appeal to, or reference to, the God of Heaven, BOOTMEN falls short in a very essential ingredient: spiritual uplift. Viewers leave the theater feeling pummeled by the hard driving clash of titanic wills in a rough and tumble culture without the benefit of God’s intervention in any story point.
Whereas 1992’s Australian modest movie gem STRICTLY BALLROOM pits one dancer’s unconventional dancing against the established Australian Ballroom Dance Confederation’s entrenched traditions, BOOTMEN pits a tap dancer against the entrenched disbelief and inertia of hourly wage workers who essentially have no vision for artistic achievement whatsoever. Containing graphic thug violence, strong romance, and implied fornication in a rough and tumble culture, BOOTMEN has a hard-driving, compelling storyline which delivers engrossing entertainment, but lacks spiritual uplift. Viewers leave the theater feeling pummeled by the hard driving clash of titanic wills without the benefit of God’s intervention in any story point