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Tap
★★★☆☆
Screening room

Gregory Hines stars as an ex-con named Max released from prison who returns to his late father's dance studio, now run by an older cat (Sammy Davis Jr.) and his daughter Amy (Suzzanne Douglas). Max must choose between returning to burglary with his old partner (Joe Morton) or putting his tap shoes back on and dancing with the lovely Amy, who’s now working on Broadway in a less than authentic period tap show.  Writer/director Nick Castle—best known for playing Michael Myers in the original Halloween (1978), for co-writing John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981), and for directing the ‘80s teen, sci-fi, early gamer classic The Last Starfighter (1984) might seem an odd person to write and direct a dance drama. But he was also the son of Charles Edward Castle, an actor and Emmy nominated choreographer for TV, movies, and stage. So tap dancing was in his blood. 

Castle’s thin script is no less contrived than the thin melodrama frameworks on which hung Fred Astaire’s best dance numbers, but here, despite the lack of screen time devoted to both, the crime drama narrative and the romantic subplot get tedious. The dance sequences, however, are more than worth the price of admission. In addition to the phenomenal Hines, the picture features the final movie performance of the legendary Sammy Davis Jr. and the movie debut of young Savion Glover, not to mention countless cameos by a number of veteran dancers from the golden age of Hollywood who all still have moves that can blow you away. Castle knows how to shoot old school dance numbers too—in long shots with few cuts. Too bad he couldn’t restrain composer James Newton Howard (Wildcats, Tough Guys, Five Corners) from indulging in the worst soundtrack trends of the late ‘80s. This movie would ten times more enjoyable if the score were removed and replaced with just rehearsal hall piano.

Twitter Capsule:
Hines dazzles leading an amazing cast of old-time hoofers and a teenage Savion Glover. Castle’s thin crime drama narrative isn't great, but it's no less contrived than the slight melodramas on which hung Fred Astaire’s best dance numbers.

Directed by Nick Castle
Produced by Richard Vane and Gary Adelson

Written by Nick Castle

With: Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., Suzzanne Douglas, Savion Glover, Terrence E. McNally, Joe Morton, Dick Anthony Williams, Bunny Briggs, Steve Condos, Arthur Duncan, Pat Rico, Howard 'Sandman' Sims, Jimmy Slyde, Harold Nicholas, and Etta James

Cinematography: David Gribble
Editing: Patrick Kennedy
Music: James Newton Howard

Runtime: 111 min
Release Date: 10 February 1989
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color