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Blu-ray Review: Showgirls – 15th Anniversary Sinsational Edition

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Like many of its characters, Showgirls has been around the block a few times. This 1995 NC-17 flick was virtually kicked out the theater, lambasted by critics, and found itself winning the kinds of awards nobody wanted to win. In the years since the film's release it's clear that time hasn't been a kind bedfellow, but a recently released Blu-ray edition has given some new life to the movie. Is it worth dropping the cash for this table dance? Or are you better off saving your dollar bills and going somewhere else?

Directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Robocop), Showgirls has become a very polarizing title. There are those that would say the film is a satire about the underbelly of the Las Vegas Strip and that it sheds light on what goes on behind the scenes in Sin City. Then there are those that would call it a trashy mess of a film that exists solely to expose breasts, degrade women, and exaggerate adolescent ideas about sex being a gymnastic sport. The truth of the matter is the experience one will get from Showgirls depends entirely on the individual.

Naomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) is a down on her luck girl from the middle of nowhere who dreams big of becoming a dancer in Las Vegas. She dresses like a hooker, barely thinks twice about exposing herself, and has the mouth of a truck driver, but don't you dare call her a "whore". In the opening scene of the film she is picked up while hitchhiking and threatens her driver when he makes an advance upon her. Naturally she's ditched once they get there and hits rock bottom her very first night. There's a certain naïveté to her personality and she demonstrates her immaturity by throwing a temper tantrum when a bystander tries to help her.

Eventually she finds herself working at a strip club called the Cheetah where the customers are sleazy, and the owner is even worse. One circumstance leads to another and she's soon roped into a twisted circle by a starlet named Crystal Connors (Gina Gershon), who thinks she's hot and finds her tantrums appealing. Crystal gets Naomi an audition and soon her natural talent speaks for itself. She lands a role dancing for a hotel show, but finds that her dream isn't quite what she expected.

She's essentially promoted to be a higher class of whore, and naturally she doesn't care much for that. The movie's plot pretty much goes downhill from there as she has an on-again off-again relationship with an ex-bouncer, has a sordid affair with Crystal's rich boyfriend, and does what she has to do to get to the top. The film really falls apart after the second act, though to be quite honest it never really sets up the first half all that well. The plot is paper thin, the movie lacks direction, and the whole thing boils down to one big collection of characters viewers won't care about and their relationships, which will be cared about even less. I'd almost go as far to say the film is a collection of failed soap opera, if the soap was set in Las Vegas and was able to show boobs.

Ultimately Showgirls is simply a movie that never succeeds with what it intends to do. Instead, it finds success as a campy, nudity-filled romp that borderline makes fun of itself while it attempts to put on a straight face. The film has a few highlights and there are plenty of moments that entertaining (or titillate, if you will), but it's hard to tell if this effect was purposeful or not. It's worth checking out, but it's not something to get excited about.

Showgirls 15th Anniversary Sinsational Edition is presented on Blu-ray with a full 1080p resolution with MPEG-4 AVC encoding and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. While the quality of the film itself hasn't exactly improved over the years, the picture quality has. This presentation here is absolutely gorgeous in just about every area one could hope for. The film maintains a great level of clarity with rich black levels and the colors pop from the screen. This being a film that takes place in the Vegas Strip there are plenty of opportunities for the video to flex its muscles, and it does so constantly.

Likewise the sound quality on the Blu-ray of Showgirls sparkles. The supplied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is out of this world with such a dynamic range and presence on the soundstage. The dialogue is clear and sharp, which is a plus, but it's the sound effects and music that really bring home the bacon here. The soundtrack absolutely blasts from the speakers and offers some great bass. Nothing is lost in the shuffle either, and ambient noise envelopes you while you watch. This track will almost make you feel as though you're in the strip club watching Henrietta Bazoom (though I'm not sure that's a good thing).

For bonus features, this release gives that special edition feel to it. For starters the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film are included here (though no Digital Copy is available). A theatrical trailer and entertaining pop-up trivia track are presented here. "A Showgirls Diary" (10:54) offers some behind the scenes shots and glimpses at the production of the film. "Lap Dancing Tutorial Featuring the World-Famous Girls of Scores" (4:56) is available if you want to learn how to give a lap dance. Along the same lines is "Pole Dancing: Finding Your Inner Stripper" (11:54), which is a weak tie-in to the movie that involves stripping. Finally there's an audio commentary provided by David Schmader, who spends as much time cracking jokes as he does talking about the film.

Showgirls is a tough film to watch at times. It's trashy and downright crass to an absurd extent. On top of that, the plot never works and the characters are hardly likable. Somewhere in between the movie manages to pull out some charm, make you laugh, and leave not entirely disgusted. As you can probably tell, that's not a glowing recommendation. This is a title meant for a select audience, though it will be most appreciated by those with affection for B-movie material. This Blu-ray edition is top-notch, however, and the presentation is positively awesome. Add to that a decent spread of bonus content and you have a tempting release that might find a welcome home in your Blu-ray collection.

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