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The first co-production between uber action money-men Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. A screenplay co-written by Joe ’Showgirls’ Eszterhas. Synth-pop music from Giorgio Moroder. Directed by a young Adrian Lyne. Oh, and lots of leg warmers. Be afraid. Be very afraid...

A welder well known enough to have her own engraved helmet.
Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) is an 18-year-old woman of many contradictions. She’s a most unlikely welder by day and a most energetic dancer by night. She’s a feisty woman living alone who cherishes her independence, dreaming of dancing at the Pittsburgh Conservatory but seeing as she performs in a run-down bar little better than a strip-joint and has had no formal training she lacks the confidence to attend auditions.

Enter the amorous advances of her boss at the manufacturing plant (Michael Nouri). He’s a local hometown boy made good. He’s seen Alex dance and believes she’s good enough to make it at the Conservatory. She initially rejects his overtures but slowly comes to warm to him and…can you see where this is going?

The prison break of oiled-up dancers wasn't going too well...
If the above synopsis sounds simplistic then, well, it is. You’re not going to find many (any?) hidden depths in this movie which begins at A, hits the insultingly all-too predictable blip at point B before trundling on to the grandstand rousing finish at C. The plot, as described in frightening detail above, is simply a series of admittedly well designed, shot and performed dance sequences with some painfully banal dialogue about finding your place in the world haphazardly thrown in between them. Full marks to the choreographers, the movements employed match the music well and fully demonstrate the talents of whichever particular girl is performing them. However, in the absence of a narrative, this is no substitute for characterisation. Each dance sequence tells us nothing about the performer except that she can obviously dance very well. Nor do such sequences, with one notable exception, move the story on any further to render them isolated incidents of rather redundant eye candy.

Given such circumstances, it’s not surprising that performances are nothing to savour. Jennifer Beals does her best in the title role (as the most ludicrous manual labourer you’re ever likely to see) that requires her to alternatively look winsome, feisty and sultry. Granted, she’s a great dancer with a lot of enthusiasm but her acting is found so wanting that even providing the above trio of expressions is difficult. Unable to provide feisty she merely comes across as capricious which, in a story where the viewer is required to root for the heroine in order to facilitate that rousing finale, is something of a problem. Michael Nouri fares little better as the love interest, his uncertain delivery of the trite dialogue seemingly stifled by his excessive body hair.

After pulling a right dog, Michael Nouri finally finds something hairier than him...
Director Adrian Lyne displays plenty of visual panache (although the one heavy strobe sequence is debilitating enough to have you running for cover) and for a movie that predates the MTV generation it’s clear to see where the influences of many music videos can be found. Unfortunately no amount of stylised visuals can compensate for such vapid source material and it’s worrying to see how 10 years later Joe Eszterhas managed to tweak the script so little and spawn Showgirls.
Importantly, and the link with  Eszterhas’ subsequent oeuvre is significant, it’s possible to enjoy Flashdance purely due to its preposterous nature. Not quite of the ‘so bad it’s good’ school of movie-making yet it would be churlish not to admit that I did laugh several times (not quite where Lyne intended the audience to chuckle, I’m sure, but there you go) and the 90 minutes of this feelgood film fairly flew by. While it’s impossible not to notice its general awfulness, it’s equally impossible not to recognise that perhaps it’s best to disengage the grey matter and view this on its own dubious merits.

Paramount’s transfer, anamorphically enhanced at 1.78:1, is a decent affair for a film made 20 years ago. Lyne’s use of strong blues and reds during the workout and dance sequences are rendered effectively without smearing or bleeding. Likewise the muted greys and greens of the manufacturing plant are handled well. Unfortunately shadow delineation and contrast levels really suffer with the interior shots of the dimly lit Mawby’s bar really struggling to produce enough detail to prevent outlines of faces and figures being obscured in a brown haze. By contrast Lyne’s protracted use of smoke, sparks and dry ice are afforded top-notch encoding with very few minor instances of macro-blocking and pixellation.

Best to cool off after a hot dance onstage...
Sound too is reasonable without being anything special. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track offers good channel separation for the numerous musical montages (which are often spliced with lines of dialogue) but the dialogue is very much confined to the centre speaker and a little low in the mix. Unless you have an equalisation setting turned on you might face the prospect of adjusting the volume several times during the movie as there’s quite a large disparity between the music and dialogue.

Absolutely none. Surely even a trailer would be available in a vault somewhere for this movie? Director Adrian Lyne has proved a willing contributor on previous DVDs so it seems unfortunate that there’s no input from him given the movie was such a hit stateside. There isn’t even a scene selection feature...

Jennifer Beals goes for the big finish...
With the film not something it’s possible to recommend viewing more than once, unless you have a predilection for bad early 1980’s movies that have dated horribly or indeed Jennifer Beals, the technically average disc with an absence of any special features whatsoever is perhaps better experienced as a rental.