BOUNCE: BEHIND THE VELVET ROPENR
It's a testament to the considerable appeal of Bounce: Behind the Velvet Rope that a sub-par video transfer to grainy film and several out-of-sync talking-head segments don't spoil the party. With a look as funky as its subject matter, director Steven Cantor's documentary takes a good concept further by exploiting the telegenic qualities of a handful of colorful, if not always likeable, club bouncers working the ropes in New York and London.
Wisely, the filmmakers spent considerable time auditioning for their subjects. Those chosen include handsome, muscled family man Jordan Maldonado, who loves violence so much he touts it to his three-year-old son like a father conveying the joy of reading; Alan Crosley, a quirky, spiritually inclined Irishman with a literary bent; the DeMaios, word-challenged, hunky twins who do everything together, including considerable down time tanning and collecting Sly Stallone clippings; Homer Omar Cook, a bouncer and makeup artist with a passion for beautifying women; and veteran British bouncer Lenny "The Guv'nor" McLean, the most charismatic and articulate of the group, whose personal history had also taken him from the streets to boxing and to successful acting (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and writing careers until his death recently.
And, by way of bouncer Terence "The Black Prince" Buckley, Bounce also delivers an ever-so-slight dramatic arc, as it intermittently follows the appealing Outer Boroughs Buckley as he chases work in Manhattan. Gleefully devoted to his mom and son, he is filmed during a critical job interview, and the camera is later right there in Buckley's Queens home when he gets the call telling him whether he bagged the gig.
These bouncers (doormen are apparently a rung above, but the film is murky on the distinction) are largely a literally battle-scarred bunch, likely, but not always, to have suffered abuse as children and bouts with the law as adults. As Bounce presents it, the appeal of the job has a lot to do with being at the center of the action, being in control and in proximity to dangerous physicality. And there's the access to quick, easy sex, provided the boss isn't around. The pay stinks (about $100 a night) but, hey, all jobs have drawbacks.
While Bounce's stars engage, the documentary falls short of illuminating the profession itself. There's no real sense of the pecking order or the variety of challenges emerging from such different situations as controlling doors at an MTV party or sleazy strip joint. The focus is always outside the clubs, not inside, so Bounce evokes no sense of the venues themselves. Also, the film would have benefited from archival footage and historical references. After all, Studio 54 put bouncing and door patrol on the map. Of course, Bounce isn't meant to be educational, but a little context would have enriched the experience.
Still, there's a hot soundtrack and plenty of blunt, spicy blather about the gig and its perks, the joy of violence and the joy of sex. And beyond the raunchiness and easy laughs, scenes captured at a British school for bouncers provide a nice dose of wry, squeaky-clean humor.
Bouncing here doesn't look like fun, but the film is. Thus, a respectable number of curious filmgoers may cross the ropes and give Bounce a little of same at the box office.