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Paul Verhoeven
Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi, Alan Rachins, Gina Ravera, Lin Tucci
Writing Credits:
Joe Eszterhas

Leave Your Inhibitions At The Door.

Seduction, passion and power struggles unfold when the creators of Basic Instinct, director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, blow the lid off the seemingly glamorous world of Las Vegas showdancing to create one of the most controversial - and shocking - films of all time.

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) has what it takes to make it as a Las Vegas showgirl - what she doesn't have is a way in. To survive, she accepts the only job available: lap dancing at a seedy club. And when she meets Cristal (Gina Gershon), Vegas' reigning showgirl, Nomi wants everything she has - including her boyfriend (MacLachlan). And as Nomi dives deeper into the world she so desperately desires, a rivalry between the two women heats up. The battle for the spotlight becomes so fiercely competitve that it drives Nomi to desperate lengths - and devious heights - for fame in Sin City.

Box Office:
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.112 million on (unknown) screens.
Domestic Gross
$20.302 million.

Rated NC-17

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 131 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 4/25/2000

• Featurette
• Trailer
• Easter Egg


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Showgirls (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 8, 2004)

Here it is, folks, the first - and so far only - mainstream, general-release movie to be rated "NC-17". That rating was created in the early 1990s to try to eliminate the stigma attached to the "X". It was felt that filmmakers felt stifled by the limitations of "R" but needed to edit their movies to make them "R"-worthy or else they'd get the dreaded "X" with its connotations of porn and certain financial death at the box office.

As such, the MPAA tried to reclaim their rating system from the porno movies and they made the "NC-17", which was supposed to be the classy, painless way to offer adult-oriented films. That was the intention, but it never quite worked out that way.

The first "NC-17" movie was Henry and June, an art house affair that had almost zero appeal for the general public. Filmmakers still seemed afraid of the "NC-17" and stayed away from it, other than for these kinds of small films that would have just been unrated anyway.

Showgirls had the potential to change that. Here at last was a mainstream film from a well-regarded director with Paul Verhoeven of Robocop and Basic Instinct fame plus a successful writer via Joe Eszterhaz of Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge) with the backing of a major studio in the form of MGM. How could it fail?

Pretty easily, as it happens. The problems: a) the film was no good; and b) it turns out no one was really all that interested in seeing a movie about the happenings "behind the scenes" at Las Vegas revues. Add to that the ironic stigma that Showgirls was essentially perceived as a glorified porno movie and the film died a very quick death at the box office. Had things gone differently, thousands of Internet geeks would have been spared the ordeal of endless arguments about whether Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut should have been altered because Warner Bros. might have let it go out as "NC-17".

I guess Showgirls was the wrong horse upon which to bet all the "NC-17" bucks, though the entire affair has given it an infamous immortality that otherwise might have been lost. Had it received an "R", it would have been long forgotten, for it really is a pretty crummy movie.

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) comes to Las Vegas with the dream to become a showgirl. She quickly gets ripped off, though this allows her to meet and befriend Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), a costume mistress for a big show. Nomi gets a job as a stripper but still hopes to get into casino revues. Her connection through Molly allows Nomi a bit of an inside connection, and she idolizes star performer Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), at least until the dancer insults her. Nomi also lusts for Cristalís boyfriend, hotel entertainment director Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan).

Nomi meets nightclub bouncer named James Smith (Glenn Plummer) who claims he can help improve her dancing skills. They engage in a rocky relationship. In the meantime, Cristal drags Zack to Nomiís club, primarily in an apparent effort to humiliate the dancer. This works, but Cristal initiates a triangle when she pays Nomi to lap-dance Zack, which piques his interest in her.

Cristal also maintains a perverse fascination with Nomi, so she sends a representative from her show to recruit her for an audition. She thinks she fails, which is what first lands her with James. However, she ultimately lands the gig as part of the chorus.

From there Showgirls follows Nomiís path to stardom. She eventually capitalizes on Cristalís failings, and she also manipulates situations to her own advantage. She becomes cut-throat and plows through everyone in her way as she runs to the top.

Any similarities between Showgirls and All About Eve are purely intentional. Imagine the Bette Davis classic without the snappy dialogue and vivid performances but with a lot more skin and you get Showgirls. Itís almost like a porn knock-off of Eve, honestly; itís only marginally classier than cheap rip-offs with titles like Saving Ryanís Privates.

Actually, Showgirls isn't bad in an unentertaining, unwatchable way. Indeed, it does offer some guiltily campy pleasures, and despite the protestations of many, I think Verhoeven meant it to be that way. His American films have always tended to have an overblown spirit and openly satirize aspects of our culture. It's not quite as obvious in Showgirls as it was in Robocop or Starship Troopers, but it's definitely there.

The conflict occurs because it also seems clear the Eszterhas wasn't kidding around when he wrote the script. It seems obvious that he was on some sort of hit-writer high and he thought he was concocting some sort of sleazy epic. The result is some insanely laughable dialogue - such as an interchange between up-and-comer Nomi and Cristal about the pleasures of dog food - and the entire movie possesses a bizarre mix of high drama and low comedy. God knows what Eszterhas was thinking, but he really crashed and burned here.

Large portions of Showgirls are quite dull, but we find enough trashy fun to keep us entertained. Berkley is uniformly awful as the mercenary Nomi, but she doesn't stand alone in that category. Quite a few of the other actors are not so hot as well - though no one else is nearly as overly-emotive as she - and Verhoeven's movies often feature poor acting. I might even believe that perhaps some of Berkley's extreme broadness was intentional were there not at least a few other decent performances, notably from Gershon, who seems to have been the only participant to actually get a career boost from this film. Whereas Nomi comes across as a nasty bitch who cannot possibly seem endearing to anyone, Cristal seems to be a clever, charming bitch whose popularity we can understand.

Although not much about Showgirls seems entertaining, and its crassness can be pretty bad, I have to admit the nudity doesn't hurt. Actually, I thought there'd be more than there is. Sure, we see lots of topless scenes, but we get only a little full-frontal. Hey, I thought this was supposed to push the envelope?

Ultimately Showgirls stands as a genuinely bad movie, and whether or not you'll enjoy it depends on your tolerance for campy trash. I won't really try to defend it on the grounds that much of the silliness does seem intentional, but I suppose that'll let the more pretentious folks feel better about watching it.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus D

Showgirls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it's probably an old recycled laserdisc transfer, the movie nonetheless looked pretty good, with only a few flaws to mar the image.

Sharpness seemed consistently fine, with a great deal of detail evident and very few soft scenes. Unfortunately, this came with a cost in the form of a moderate amount of moirť effects and jagged edges; too much shimmering occurred. Print flaws were fairly minimal, though I detected a nick or two and some mild speckling. Nonetheless, the movie mostly seemed clean.

Colors generally looked wonderfully rich and deep, with excellent saturation and few signs of problems. The only concerns occurred during the fairly frequent scenes that depicted colored lighting; at times, these appeared a bit noisy and hazy. It's not a terrible concern but it's a problem nonetheless. Black levels were thoroughly dense and dark, and shadow detail appeared nicely opaque but never overly thick. Portions of Showgirls looked very good, but a few significant flaws knocked the entire thing down to a "B".

I also felt positively about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Showgirls. The soundfield seemed terrifically involving throughout virtually the entire film. In quieter moments, ambient effects helped reinforce the mood, but the best parts were during the louder scenes; that was when the track really kicked into high gear. Primarily these occurred during the many segments that featured music. Between nightclubs, parties, and the Vegas shows themselves, loud music was a near-constant partner in this movie, and the soundtrack helped blast it with "you are there" realism. Not only did the songs fly from all five channels, but also they present a quality that made them seem natural. The audio didn't engulf the listener randomly but instead created an atmosphere that resembled the dynamics of the depicted venues, so that music in a club had the boomy echo of audio in an actual club. It all worked very well.

Quality was also strong. Dialogue consistently seemed pretty natural and warm, with no intelligibility issues. I detected a slight bit of distortion from the speech at times, but this seemed mild. Effects were crisp and clear and appeared nicely realistic. Music was bright and bold and always sounded appropriate for the on-screen setting.

Bass seemed positive, though I must admit it's a minor disappointment that it didn't use the LFE channel. This usually didnít cause any concerns, but I thought some elements - especially rock music - lacked great depth. Most of the mix featured fine bass, but it could have been warmer at times. Nonetheless, the track presented a lively presence that fared nicely.

Note: this soundtrack is loud. I don't just mean that a lot of scenes feature loud music; no, I mean that this thing seems to have been mastered at a level much higher than most DVD soundtracks. I had the volume on my receiver turned down significantly lower than is typical and I still worried that my neighbors were going to call the cops. Be careful when you put this sucker in the player; your normal volume levels will likely be far too high.

Showgirls isn't exactly a special edition but it does include a few supplements. There's a largely-promotional but oddly entertaining featurette that runs for about four minutes and 40 seconds. It intersperses the usual film clips with brief interview snippets and doesn't act as much more than a glorified trailer, but there's still something strangely compelling about it.

Speaking of such, the actual trailer also appears. It's unusual in that it's actually an "R"-rated promo and it features some nudity in it. We donít often see ads like this, but it obviously makes sense that the preview was aimed at adult audiences alone since no one under 17 could see the film.

Finally, the DVD includes an odd Easter egg. If you use the direction buttons on your remote to highlight the individual letters of the Showgirls logo on the main menu screen, you can then hear dialogue snippets from the film. I'm not sure why you'd want to do this, but it's there if you want it.

I hate to have to pan a movie that provides a memorable dry-hump scene, but I'm afraid I must. Showgirls is a few minutes of campy fun surrounded by long stretches of glossy boredom. The DVD offers better than decent picture and very good sound, though it features few supplements. Because of its reputation, Showgirls seems worth a rental - it's one of those films every movie fan really needs to see at least once - but I can't endorse anything more than that.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3777 Stars Number of Votes: 45
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