Male erotic dancing. We’re making history!” exclaims the doomed Nick DeNoia to one of his hairless, buffed and oiled dancers in the tragically uncampy “Chippendales Murders.” USA Networks’ fact-based telepic takes itself seriously, chronicling the rise and fall of the men of “vision” (as they are referred to time and again) who created the clubs where women could go ogle pumped up showboys.
Pic opens in 1975, when Steve Banerjee (Naveen Andrews), an Indian immigrant, buys a run-down nightclub, and transforms it into … a run-down nightclub.
Flash forward to 1981, when mouthy choreographer Nick DeNoia stumbles into the club, dubbed Chippendales (the origin of the name is too banal to relate here), expecting a female mud wrestling night. Instead he finds a couple of male hustlers stripping for a couple of women customers. Disgusted, he asks for the owner, and a very intense Steve shares his “vision” of a classy erotic dance club for women only. Pushy Nick inexplicably jumps on the bandwagon, recruiting muscle-bound pretty boys from local gyms and beach volleyball courts, and, like a cut-rate Bob Fosse in “All That Jazz,” hammers the rag-tag cuties into the world-famous Chippendales dancers.
The club becomes an instant success, but obnoxious Nick (please, someone kill him off) wants a bigger piece of the action. Steve, meanwhile, degenerates into and overly paranoid ball of nerves, protecting his empire that now includes road shows, satellite clubs and merchandise. He hires a hitman to off Nick (hurrah!) as well as some rogue dancers who form the Adonis troupe in London. The authorities eventually catch up with Steve, he’s convicted and kills himself in jail. The end.
Moral of the story? It’s hard to feel sympathetic for a couple of strip-club operators.
Muddled script by Richard DeLong Adams plays fast and loose with events and skips character development — it’s as if it whole pages and scenes were ripped out indiscriminantly — although Eric Bross’ direction is lively and kinetic and camerawork by Horatio Marquinez polished.
Fine English actor Naveen Andrews (“The English Patient”) tries to bring depth to Steve, and rest of cast is serviceable. As for the beefcake element, plenty on display here to titillate, so who cares if they can act?
Post on tape viewed not finished but eclectic songs on soundtrack — although not chronologically correct, i.e., “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” used in a scene set in 1981 — would make a fun compilation CD. Press materials did not say where “Chippendales Murders” was filmed, but wherever it was filmed makes a poor stand-in for Southern California.