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USA 2007
Directed by
Abel Ferrara
101 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Go Go Tales

The setting is a New York “gentleman’s” club called Ray Ruby’s Paradise. A bunch of bored strippers and lap dancers go through their routine while upstairs owner Ray (William Dafoe) and his side-kick secretively work on a scheme to win at Lotto. The club is going down the tubes from lack of punters and the harridan landlady, Lillian (Sylvia Miles) sits at the bar screeching that she’s going to close the place if she doesn’t get her rent. Also the girls want real money as the punters only have some kind of Monopoly style currency to stuff into the girl’s g-strings.

Eventually Ray’s hairdresser brother and financial backer Johnny (Matthew Modine) shows up with a lap dog and a haircut that makes him look like a cross between Andy Warhol and Frankenstein's monster and threatens to stop funding the place. Then Ray's manager (Bob Hoskins) throws the punters out and they hold an open mike night for staff.  Periodically, Ray gets on stage as M.C. and crooner. Close to 50% of the film is simply given over to ogling some attractively svelte young women display their charms and the rest to these aimless goings-on.

It seems that with Go Go Tales Ferrara has set out to make a cult film, never a good strategy in my books. He’s got the cast for the purpose with, aside from the actors already mentioned, Anita Pallenberg as a hat-check girl and Asia Argento as a stripper, and a suitably dubious setting (the entire film, including exteriors is shot on a sound stage) and a lot of out-there characters but he is hell-bent on giving what is actually a pretty decent script a perversely hyperbolic treatment.

Ferrara is clearly indebted to John Cassavetes’ marvellous 1976 film about a strip club owner with a gambling problem, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, but all that he has managed to do is to turn something potentially very good into something a good deal less so.

The last ten minutes or so of the film, largely due to a to-camera monologue from Dafoe, manages to pull things together and you can see what the film might have been if played for dramatic conviction instead of shock value, but that is hardly Ferrara's style. Given that, this is one of his better efforts.




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