Big-budget skinflick. Big deal. The storyline, something like a Jackie Susann or Jackie Collins novel condensed to a single thin thread, could have been completely mapped out by the scriptwriter while waiting for his sausage-and-eggs order to be filled at Denny's: an aspiring dancer (face of a papier-mâché death's-head, temperament inclined towards squalls and tempests) hitchhikes to Vegas with a solitary and soon stolen suitcase, works her way up from an infra-dig strip club to a chorus line on the Strip, then to the position of understudy to the star (a Raquel Welch look-alike ca. 1967), then to top billing when she positions herself behind the star on a stairway and administers a decisive shove, then gives it all up in order to exact revenge on a Michael Bolton-esque superstar for the rape of her roommate. (Standard male notion of the fitting punishment for that crime: a good butt-kicking -- and never mind that only one of the three deserving butts gets kicked.) The temporary layover in the strip club permits some groundbreaking, though unconvincing, big-screen documentation of the lap-dance phenomenon. But the backstage infighting, or catfighting, that makes up the bulk of the action is very old and soggy ground indeed. And the loss-of-innocence theme and art-versus-commerce theme (art represented by a dreadlocked refugee from the Alvin Ailey troupe) are no sort of ground at all, only puddles of crocodile tears. With Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle MacLachlan; written by Joe Eszterhas; directed by Paul Verhoeven. (1995) — Duncan Shepherd
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