One of the biggest nails in the coffin of Demi Moore's career was this stinker written and directed by Andrew Bergman in 1996. Striptease sets up its story quickly, as we meet Erin Grant (played by Moore), an F.B.I. secretary who loses her job and the custody of her daughter, Anglea (Rumor Willis, Moore's real life kid) when her drug addicted booze swilling husband, Darrell (Robert Patrick), gets arrested. She divorces him and for some strange reason the judge awards him custody. Not one to take things lying down, Erin decides that the only way to win her daughter back is to raise the fifteen grand she's going to need for legal fees before the next court date and that the only way she's going to be able to do that is to take a job as a stripper at a peeler joint called The Eager Beaver. She figures she'll strip for a while, make the cash she needs, and quite long before she has to be in front of the judge again and that'll be that.
So yeah, she starts her new career off with a bang, dancing to more sophisticated music than her slightly trashier co-workers, all of whom seem to be the 'stripper with a heart of gold' types rather than the 'stripper with a drug problem and daddy issues' type and all of whom want her to succeed. As she struts her stuff on stage and shakes her money maker for the leering male clientele to the sounds of The Eurythmics, things are soon going well for her and she quickly becomes the top draw at the club. It all hits the fan one night when some dude and his pals show up for a bachelor party and get into a scuffle with Erin's number one fan, Congressman Bob Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds). Bouncer Shad (Ving Rhames) is there to keep Erin safe but before you know it, the pictures of Dilbeck from that night are causing him some problems, problems of the blackmail kind. See, the sleazy lawyer for the guy who got roughed up at the bachelor party wants to blackmail Dilbeck for big bucks, but another guy who hangs out at the club, Jerry (William Hill), he wants to blackmail Dilbeck to force him to help Erin get her kid back. Complicating matters further for Dilbeck are the presence of some dangerous and corrupt businessmen, the kind that make large political contributions - they need to make sure he gets reelected because they've invested a lot of money in him and they're willing to take out anyone who might serve as a bump on his road back to congress, including Erin. The only one who can help our poor stripper mom, who has since moved into a flashy new apartment (which seems to seriously contradict her stated intent of only doing this to earn the money to get her kid back) is a cop named Lieutenant Garcia (Armand Assante), who actually seems interested in sincerely trying to help her get things back on track.
Let's start with the good, because it'll be easy as there isn't much to discuss. Striptease is a slick looking movie with some nice cinematography. There are some cool compositions, there's interesting lighting used in the club scenes, and it's a well polished movie on a visual level. Aside from that though, there's not a lot to praise. The biggest problem is that the movie just can't make up its mind where it wants to go in terms of tone and direction. In one scene things are being played for laughs and in another, things are being played for serious dramatic effect. This can work if it is done well, but it isn't. We don't really get a feel for any of the characters and it's hard for us to really sympathize with Erin, which is probably the biggest problem with the film. Sure, her heart is in the right place and of course we want her to get her kid back from the bad guy in Terminator II but seriously, you're gonna go strip to save cash... and then move into a fancy apartment? You're going to just hope to walk away from all of this without it coming back to bite you? You're not expecting this to tarnish your reputation as a mother? That's not to say that stripper's can't be good mothers, don't get me wrong I'm sure plenty of them are but it goes against what her character is trying to do here, and that's convince the courts that she's the one to parent the child. With that said, the very fact that they sided with Darrell in the first place is ridiculous and it seems to hinge on the judge's appreciation of his football skills. Huh?
Front and center in all of this is Demi Moore, who looks nothing like the common woman she's supposed to be when the movie starts and every single bit the sex symbol that she becomes once she proves to be the best damn stripper in town. We don't really see any evolution here, it's just that all of a sudden she's Stripperus Maximus and Burt Reynolds and Ving Rhames are all horny for her. The story doesn't transition her into getting used to taking her clothes off for a group of drunken strangers, which is something that you'd think would get take some getting used to. Nope, she's just ready right then and there and wouldn't you know it, she tears that stage up and looks amazing doing it and in those few moments where the film calls for some emotion, she fails to deliver any. The political subtext could have saved this if it had gone anywhere but it doesn't, it's merely a plot device seemingly crammed in there to add some suspense to a couple of scenes but without any sort of emotional attachment to latch on to here, that suspense is fleeting at best. Reynolds is every bit as awful here, and while he looks the part of a sleazy drunken lecherous politician, that's about as good as he gets, his character is vapid and dumb, two words that accurately sum up this movie in general: vapid and dumb.
When Moore followed this one with the equally awful G.I. Jane that was pretty much it for her, though Reynolds, to his credit, rose up and almost took home an Oscar a year later when he pulled off an amazing performance in Boogie Nights, proving that Bergman is just as much, if not more, responsible for the train wreck that is Striptease than anyone working in front of the camera was. Had there been a decent script here it could have worked, as there are hints of something deeper laying beneath the surface of this film, but the movie never goes there.
Warner presents Striptease on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition on a 25GB Blu-ray disc. Generally the image here is a strong one, making the most of the various colored lights used in the club scenes and presenting all of the garish colors of its Florida location shooting quite realistically. Detail is very good in close up shots with medium and long distance shots also generally impressive. Black levels are strong and shadow detail remains decent throughout, which, when you consider how much of the film takes place in a dark nudie bar, could make or break a transfer like this. There's some mild shimmering here and there but no obvious compression artifacts and only a slight hint of edge enhancement to note. Grain patterns look nice and natural and all in all, this is quite a good looking transfer that seems very faithful to the film.
The main audio option on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, but standard definition stereo tracks are provided in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese with subtitles available in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. It probably won't surprise anybody to read that the bulk of the surround activity in the DTS-HD mix occurs during the strip scenes inside the club. Music pumps at you from all channels with the subwoofer kicking up a pretty constant low end rumble to balance things out. Surprisingly enough it never seems like overkill, it suits these scenes quite well. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. There probably could have been more done with the surround channels outside of the club scenes, as the rest of the movie sounds like a front heavy stereo mix, but outside of that complaint things sound solid.
The only extra on the disc is a standard definition theatrical trailer for the feature, some menus and some chapter stops.
Striptease is pretty much an irredeemably awful film by any standard that can't make up its mind if it wants to be a drama, a comedy, a cautionary tale of the evils of the world or something else entirely. Though it offers some cheap thrills by way of the bare flesh on display, they can't make up for the fact that the movie is really, really bad. You'd think it might have aged the way a good bad movie can, but no, it has not and unless you're a serious glutton for punishment, you can safely skip this one.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.