Spun during its brief Cannes moment as a comedy, an allegory and a tour de force, Abel Ferrara's distributorless strip-club snooze turns out to be none of these---but, rather, a typically lax late-period Ferrara work, far from the glories of King of New York. Bereft of a single "tale" to speak of, the listless drama is set in a seedy joint (constructed in an Italian studio, divorced from Ferrara's authenticity), where shouty arguments between bouncers and patrons alternate with clichd backstage cattiness and ogled dancer flesh. Sylvia Miles camps it up as a furious landlord who'd rather rent the space to Bed Bath & Beyond. A coin-operated tanning bed explodes. Asia Argento tongue-kisses a dog.
The movie thinks it's far more outr than it is, and Willem Dafoe, ostensibly our hero as a fun-loving lotto dreamer and emcee, struggles with an underwritten part that yields zero profundity. (The obvious comparison to Ben Gazzara's impresario in John Cassavetes's The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is unflattering.) "This place is a loser," hisses Matthew Modine, owner of the "biggest salon in Staten Island." He's not wrong, but you wish that slam didn't have to be the verdict on the whole movie as well.