Movie Review: Dancer falls into the Athens Underworld of “Broadway”

“Broadway” is a solidly suspenseful Greek film noir set among Athen pickpockets, men and a woman laying low by night, putting on “shows” to distract their marks during the day and slowly figuring out the trap this life is, one set for these “artful dodgers” by the Fagin in charge.

It’s not as clear about what transpires as it might be, and writer-director Christos Massalas has his heroine voice-over narrate the picture to death. But it’s not bad.

Nelly is a dancer and the daughter of a dancer. But her mother, she tells us, was a ballerina who married money and her husband was not Nelly’s dad. That explains, in her mind, where we see her dancing.

Nelly, played by Elsa Lekakou, needs a pole for her act.

Her family hired men to hunt her down and bring her home. But Nelly doesn’t worry. She has a habit of being “rescued” by strange men, she assures us in voice-over.

Markos “was an artist, or so he said,” and she let him think she believed him. But any mug tough enough to clobber a detective who tracked her down to the club isn’t a painter or sculptor. Markos is another kind of artist. She finds out the particulars when he takes her to his hide-in-plain-sight hideout.

There’s an abandoned live theater with a rooftop cinema complex called “Broadway,” filled with cockroaches and underworld rats like Markos (Stathis Apostolou), Rudolf (Rafael Papad) and Mohommed, aka “Mojito” (Salim Talbi). The guy they call “Locksmith”(Hristos Politis) lets them stay there.

Locksmith takes his cut whenever they go out picking pockets. “Thieves are like magicans,” Markos says (in Greek with English subtitles). “They work with ‘distractions.'”

And now that they have a trained exotic dancer with access to the old theater’s abandoned costumes, they have their “distraction.”

Things are just getting good when another tenant of Broadway, a badly-beaten man (Foivos Papadopoulos) hiding out from the Big Gangsters in town, gets well enough to become a liability. He has to maintain the illusion that he’s dead, and yet somehow be useful.

Nelly’s access to costumes and makeup gives her inspiration. The “corpse” they realize is called “Jonas” becomes “Barbara.” Nelly choreographs Barbara into the act and the crowds they can pickpocket grow larger.

But as the opening scene to “Broadway” showed us Nelly visiting Markos in prison, we know it can’t last. And the dancer dressing as a woman is too pretty for Nelly to not to take up with him when the dangerous Markos is away.

Writer-director Christos Massalas dreams up a fascinating milieu and fills it with just-colorful-enough characters. Rudolf and Mojito are a couple, Jonas’s sexuality seems a bit fluid and Nelly is a straight-up opportunist who is just waiting on that next dance and that next “rescue.”

The film’s lone light touch is a scene in which the cops are onto them, but Barbara’s instant acceptance by the Athens drag community — and its speed-dial network of allies — effects their escape, hilariously.

The deadly love triangle that’s set up is engrossing, but all these mysterious underworld figures who seem to be pulling a lot of the strings are merely mentioned and never seen. There’s a “How’d THAT happen?” explanation or two lacking in the film’s affecting finale.

But Massalas immerses us in this pole-dancing “Oliver Twist” tale and the cast goes all-in to show us a Greece beyond the migrant headlines and the tourist sites, one where you’d better watch your wallet, because not everyone can count on a stampede of drag queens to bail you out of a jam.

Rating: unrated, violence, sex, nudity

Cast: Elsa Lekakou, Stathis Apostolou, Foivos Papadopoulos, Rafael Papad and Salim Talbi

Credits: Scripted and directed by Christos Massalas. A Dark Star release.

Running time: 1:37


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.