SHOWGIRLS - Blu-ray review

Beneath the Vegas glitz beats the heart of a cheap B-movie porno in Showgirls, a movie that truly is so bad it's funny.

James Plath's picture

WARNING: Like "Showgirls," this review is rated NC-17 for language and full nudity (hey, I do work at home).

I'm kidding about the nudity, of course, but not the language, which will be a little spicier than usual, given the nature of "Showgirls"--a movie that really has "legs," and I mean that in every sense of the word. It's one of those films that's so bad that it achieved a kind of cult status. "Showgirls" all but swept the Razzies in 1996, with Elizabeth Berkley winning Worst Actress and Worst New Star, David A. Stewart and Terry Hall winning Worst Original Song, Joe Eszterhas ("Flashdance") winning Worst Screenplay, Alan Marshall and Charles Evans winning Worst Picture, and Paul Verhoeven honored for Worst Director--the first time that any of the dubious honorees actually showed up to claim the award. That the director would do so indicates that he probably made the kind of movie he wanted to, and probably helps to explain the film's cult status. It's a bad film, sure, but like a bad accident there's still something riveting about it. For some it will be the cheesy Vegas showgirl and strip-club nudity. For others it will be the "I can't believe this" factor. I personally would give it a 4 out of 10 rather than a 1 because there are intangibles at work here.

"You gotta gamble if you're gonna win"--guy who gives her a ride to Vegas.

"Showgirls" is full of contradictions, and it all starts with the premise. From the opening scene, in which we're introduced to Nomi, a "dancer" who's headed to Vegas to make it big, what you see isn't necessarily what you get. She thumbs for a ride and is picked up by a guy who tries to get her to cozy up to him, but instantly pulls out a knife to keep the guy at bay. Mixed message? Sure. The scene is meant to show us she's "not that kind of girl" and that she has morals, but what kind of girl with morals carries a switchblade, dresses like a hooker, wears too much make-up, and hitchhikes across the country? The same kind who readily bares herself and has sex with the

"Sooner or later you're gonna have to sell it"--creep at casino.

Welcome to the world of silicone boobs, artificial tans, landing strips, and attitude. "Showgirls" was marketed as a kind of big-budget exposé, but the only thing that gets exposed are big breasts, buttocks, and bushes. I haven't been to a Vegas show, but it would be sad and pathetic if they were like the ones depicted in "Showgirls"--which strike me more as a male fantasy of those who go for Playboy bunnies and artificially enhanced mammaries.

"You're not dancin' . . . you're teasin' my dick"-nice black dancer at a club (Glenn Plummer), who later admits in a line that's so bad it's funny, "I have a problem with pussy."

There's a scene in which Nomi is working at The Cheetah strip club and is put on the spot to do a lap dance with the boyfriend (Kyle McLachlan, "Sex and the City") of a big Vegas show headliner (Gina Gershon). While she gyrates on him and basically gets him off, Cristal watches and gets off a little herself . . . partly because of the sex, and partly because of the manipulation, because she's been able to force Nomi into a situation she wanted no part of, all because of money. That scene in a nutshell summarizes the look and feel of this film, as well as any "themes" that might be floating around. Everything is sexual, and even nice guys and rock stars are pricks in "Showgirls."

"In America, everyone's a gynecologist"--Japanese businessman angling for a little post-show action.

Some of you may remember Paul Verhoeven for directing "Robocop," and he seems to have approached "Showgirls" like an action flick. It's all dancing (pole, lap, onstage), cat fighting, and spats between Nomi and anyone who ruffles her integrity feathers. We get character relationships, not character development, and it's all about keeping the bare boobs jiggling past the screen. The pool scene at Zack's (MacLachlan) house is pure B-movie porn.

"Must be weird not havin' anybody cum on ya'"--Nomi's former boss (Robert Davi) at The Cheetah.

The plot itself is simple. Nomi hitches to Vegas, has her suitcase stolen, and meets a woman named Molly (Gina Ravera) who lets her move in with her until she can find work. In Vegas, that apparently means stripping, and Nomi ends up at The Cheetah. But she aspires to dance on the big stage in a big show and be a Vegas headliner, and she gets an audition for a show where her saucy, contradictory personality lands her the job. Soon she's at The Stardust, where the star, Cristal, becomes instantly ambivalent toward her. It's the same sort of ambivalence that's responsible for her wanting to see her boyfriend (MacLachlan) get it on with Nomi but also getting jealous of her for apparently hitting it off with him. The rest of the plot follows Las Vegas' attempt to chew up Nomi and spit her out, and her resistance--which is basically the same quick-tempered anger and performance we saw in the beginning, when we were first introduced to Nomi.

"You can fuck me when you love me"--a showgirl.

And that tender quote pretty much sums "Showgirls," a glitzy, big-budget production that's really a B-movie porno under all the sequins and make-up.

I've never seen "Showgirls" on the silicone screen or on DVD, so I can't tell you how the Blu-ray compares. I will say that it's tough to talk about natural skin tones when all the women have that orangey spray-tan, with nary a bikini line. But the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer to a 50-gig disc seems to be a good one. If there are artifacts, I didn't see any. "Showgirls" is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio and features garish colors that I am willing to be convinced are natural for Vegas. The level of detail is decent, though Verhoeven opts for very few close-ups. He's big on two-shots and three-shots in this film, and long shots that show the entire ensemble doing their nude thing.

The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1, with additional options in English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0--the original soundtrack--and subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. The sound is actually quite robust (sorry--couldn't resist; after you watch this film you'll start seeing boobs everywhere). Strip-club numbers put the thump in the bass, and the rear speakers deliver a continuous, quality stream of ambient sound that's modulated at just the right level. There's a nice wide spread across the front speakers, too, with the result being a soundtrack that's fairly dynamic.

The big extra is probably the DVD version that's included here. Other than that, there's a full audio commentary by David Schmader, who lectured about how "Showgirls" is the world's most misunderstood movie and is really "The Greatest Movie Ever Made." Sorry, David, but you didn't convince me--maybe because you're doing all of this tongue in cheek. He's clearly of the so-bad-it's-good mindset. There's a pop-up trivia track that has a little fun at the film's expense, embracing again that so-bad-it's-good attitude.

The other bonus features in this 15th Anniversary Sinsational Edition are a "Pole Dancing: Find Your Inner Stripper" featurette in HD, a "Showgirl's Diary" and "Lap Dance Tutorial" in SD, and a theatrical trailer. The longest feature (12 min.) is the Pole Dancing tutorial, which features a fully-dressed Teri Jaworski describing all the pole moves--but in relation to a fitness workout, not earning money on the side. The diary (11 min.) is really a collection of storyboard sequences with excerpts from the scenes. And the lap dance tutorial is a 10-step process that stops a little short of where Nomi took Zack.

Bottom Line:
Beneath the Vegas glitz beats the heart of a cheap B-movie porno in "Showgirls," a movie that truly is so bad it's funny . . . and therefore a cult hit.


Film Value