Judge Mitchell Hattaway tried emulating this documentary, but as he found out the hard way, not only is there no sex in the Champagne Room, there's no camcorders either.
Raw. Revealing. True!
A few years ago (probably 2002, considering that Drumline poster on display during the scene in my home state's Phipps Plaza), producer Happy Walters approached rapper/actor Method Man with the opportunity to direct a straight-to-video feature. (Anyone who's seen How High knows Method is obviously the next Orson Welles.) Method Man thought about it for a while, and then decided he wanted to make a documentary about the lives of exotic dancers. So he called some of his friends, loaded up the equipment, and traveled across the United States, making stops at various clubs along the way. The result is The Strip Game, a dull, boring, poorly made piece of junk.
Here's the thing: If you've seen one stripper talk about men being suckers, you've seen them all. The main problem with The Strip Game is its repetitive nature. Method Man and his crew go to a club, shoot some footage of the dancers at work, talk to a couple of the women backstage, and then follow a pre-selected dancer around as she goes about her daily non-club activities. I think it's pretty much been established that the dancers are in it for the money, that most of them are really just average people like you and me, and that many of them have a certain amount of contempt for their patrons; given that, is there really a point to a documentary such as this? Yeah, there could be, but it would require someone with talent and a true desire to present the material in an honest, compelling manner to pull it off. That's not the case here. What we have instead is basically a guy who spends a lot of time in strip clubs and one day decides to bring in a camera crew.
At several points during this documentary, I couldn't help but think that many of the strippers were participating simply because they wanted to be on camera. I don't think they're interested in telling their stories as much as they're interested in meeting a quasi-famous rapper and being able to tell their friends that they're going to be in a movie. (Check out the two women from Atlanta as they make a production number out of rolling joints. Someone needs to tell them that being pot-smoking lesbian strippers doesn't automatically make them the coolest people in the world.) The Strip Game purports to be raw and revealing, but very often it comes across as contrived and calculated.
Given the subject matter and overall tone of this documentary, some of the faithful out there might be wondering about the…let's see, uh…eye candy factor. Well, I'd have to say that most of the women featured here aren't very aesthetically pleasing. To put it another way: I haven't seen this much cottage cheese since I was a stock clerk in the dairy section of a grocery store. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.) Honestly, there were times I was hoping someone would pay the women to put their clothes back on. I know someone might take me to task for saying this, but if you're going to make a documentary (especially one of this nature) about strippers, is it too much to ask that they be attractive strippers? And while we're at it, let me just say that—regardless of what Method and his friends seem to think—coked-up strippers aren't appealing, nor are they funny. (Pathetic? Yes. Funny and appealing? No.)
Okay, on to the technical end. The full-frame transfer on this disc leaves much to be desired. The film has a very low-grade videotape visual quality, which I'm willing to bet stems from the low budget and heavy use of available light; nevertheless, it's still rather ugly. The audio fares better, although both the 2.0 and 5.1 options are front-heavy; the major difference in the two is a slightly more open sound in the 5.1 mix. Extras include quite a bit of extended footage of the strippers at work, some audition tapes (the contents of which reinforced my belief that many of the participants simply wanted to be on camera), as well as some excised interview footage (the only semi-attractive dancer in the film is featured in one of the deleted interview segments). You also get an interview with Method Man, in which he briefly talks about the genesis of the project, as well as a commentary from Method, in which he can't remember anything about the shoot and constantly has to get information from someone else in the room. He's not at all engaging, he yells too much, and he butchers the English language enough to give Bill Cosby a stroke.
So, is The Strip Game an honest look into the life and world of exotic dancers, or is it just an excuse for Method Man to get paid for looking at some T&A (his words, not mine)? Well, that depends on which Method Man you want to believe. Do you believe the one who, at the end of the film, says he wanted to give strippers an opportunity to speak from the heart about their day-to-day lives both on and off the pole, or do you believe the guy in the supplements who can't wait to get on the road and see some butt-clapping? Personally, I'm leaning toward the butt-clapping guy, but either way you look at it, The Strip Game is still worthless.
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