Top Dogs

Dance a little.

"Bootmen" is a curious amalgamation of two different types of films. First, there's the about-to-be-laid-off-industrial-workers-who-get-together-to-do-something-rev olutionary genre of films, most memorably seen in "the Full Monty". Then there's the struggling-artist-makes-it-big-against-Mom-and-Dad's-objections genre, as depicted in the British film "Billy Elliott" and the positively ancient "Flashdance". Both these formulae fuse in "Bootmen", a story about ambition, love and a new breed of tap-dancing.

Sean Okden (Adam Garcia, last seen in "Coyote Ugly") is the talented son of a steelworker, and himself works as a welder in the town of Newcastle, Australia. His brother, Mitchell, is a borderline criminal who steals cars in order to make enough money to start his own business. This activity soon sets him afoul of a local thug, with disastrous consequences for Mitchell...and Sean, who has now quit his job in order to focus more seriously on a career in tap-dancing.

However, Sean's arrogance doesn't endear him to the people who hire him, with the result that he's forced to develop his own style of tap-dancing - using heavy-toed steel boots to create a new sound, and a new visual experience. With the assistance of a local rock band, Sean set about staging a concert to earn enough money to get himself and his fellow workers back on their feet when they are threatened by the closure of the steel factory where they work. "Bootmen" tracks Sean's endeavours, and the obstacles he faces as he travels the long road to success.

Directed by Dein Perry, founder of the world-famous "Tap Dogs" troupe, "Bootmen" is a watchable film, marked by Perry's own exhaustive knowledge of the art, and his own experiences in building the reputation of his troupe. The attention to detail is simply wonderful, the tap-dancing scenes are extremely well choreographed - as a matter of fact, they were the best part of this movie - and the show that these industrial workers put on across the course of an hour and a half will keep you both entertained and amazed at their versatility.

That said, the direction is somewhat choppy, and the character development a trifle stilted. Garcia does a good job of tapping his way through the dance numbers, but is less successful in the more emotional scenes, while Sophie Lee, as the object of both brothers' affection, is wasted in a relatively insignificant role. The storyline is also similar to past films, and offers very little that's new or original - you can predict much of the film after the first twenty minutes - and often seems to drag. However, the production is faultless, and again displays the director's deep knowledge of the art form, and the finale is simply explosive. Worth watching, if only for the dance scenes!

This article was first published on 14 Feb 2001.