Gilbert Cruz
August 25, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

White Nights

Current Status
In Season
Gregory Hines, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Isabella Rossellini, Helen Mirren
Taylor Hackford
James Goldman, Eric Hughes
musical, Mystery and Thriller, Politics

We gave it a B

Apparently, it is possible to say the phrase political dance thriller with a straight face. Director Taylor Hackford can do it. Granted, he is talking about his own surprisingly watchable film, White Nights, that happens to prove that few things from the ’80s are as bad (or as good) as you remember. In the waning years of the Cold War, Nikolai Rodchenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov), a world-renowned ballet dancer, is held captive in the Soviet Union after escaping to the United States and is placed in the custody of Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines), a tap-dancing former soldier who defected the opposite way. Sure, the plot is a bit absurd — Hackford admits the idea to pair up Baryshnikov and Hines came before the actual story — but it’s a treat to see a dance film where the numbers don’t bring the narrative to a grinding halt (another such film is Hines’ 1989 Tap, costarring an ancient but still feisty Sammy Davis Jr., also newly out on DVD). As for the extras, there’s a disappointing featurette that mostly restates the interesting parts on Hackford’s sturdy and informative commentary track.

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