Directed by John Balazs
Starring James Conrado, Zoe Thornburgh, Marcus Merkowski, Adele Elasmar,
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
With more than a few similarities to a film like Drive (2011), filmmaker John Balazs's short film Dancer (although with a run time of 53 minutes it could be argued as a feature) is a slick and stylish crime action piece, with plenty of violent choreography and excellent visuals, but also an abundance of cliches and contrivances.
Richard (James Conrado) is a strong and silent type, similar to the dark and stormy presence of Ryan Gosling in the aforementioned Drive, but with hand-to-hand combat skills like Jason Bourne. We meet him early on Dancer, laying waste to a troupe of goons so the audience quickly knows what arena the short film is operating in. The storyline then follows Richard as he unwinds at a strip club and takes a liking to stripper Dallas (Zoe Thornburgh), following her into a back room for a private dance. What becomes apparent is that Dallas's life is one of economic imprisonment and dashed dreams (she originally wanted to be a ballet dancer, hence the title). Once Richard becomes aware of the owner's (Marcus Merkowski) penchant for violence, drugs and exploitation of the club's employees, a battle royale is soon on the horizon.
There is a phenomenal atmosphere in Balazs's film that is worthy of mention. The interior club shots, with their shady lighting and pink hue, are brilliantly tense, and the fight sequences are spectacular. Fans of films such as The Raid, Taken, and anything with Steven Seagal will be pleased with the combat on display, especially when the guns start getting interspersed. The kinetic energy of Conrado is electric and one of the most appealing aspects of the movie. There were some brilliant moves from Thornburgh too, on the pole in the club and in front of a mirror in her apartment. There is a dream sequence of someone offering a balletic display which gets juxtaposed with the violent forces attempting to force their way into Dallas's world, but it was slightly unclear as to who the performer was.
Where Dancer lets itself down is the dialogue and characters. For a short film in 2017, the movie regrettably relies heavily on classic crime tropes that instantly date it. The stoic mancake using his frankly unbelievable fighting prowess to save a stripper feels difficult to swallow. As does the video game style baddie, who drops line after line of clunky threats to anyone around him. The army of goons who thoughtlessly follow orders that are homicidally reckless is a childish addition too. It may seem that I am being completely harsh but that is only because I saw massive potential in Dancer during the opening sections, but it sadly got squandered on a disappointing plot and tired themes.
Cordano, whilst epic when he is slamming his elbow into someone's face, is less enigmatic when he is having to grapple with emotional dialogue opposite Thornburgh. The latter of whom is actually solid throughout and would have been exceptional had the script and storyline gone in her favour.
If Dancer extended its routine another half an hour and fully developed the storyline, in particular the Dallas character, and shed the classic crime accessories, there would be a compelling piece of entertainment left. As it stands audiences will simply have to come for the punch ups and aesthetic, and endure the rest.
Watch the official movie trailer for Dancer below...