Shortfilm Review: Johnny Balazs's Hitman Thriller, DANCER, Finds Its Rhythm


It's imaginable that not all directing careers completely undergo smooth sailing. This primarily, among other things, deals with learning who one can gel with and filmmaker John Balazs is certainly on better straits in the last several years via his Prima Lux Films production banner where he's immersed himself in several projects, one of which now entails the new noir shortfilm thriller, Dancer, now in post-production.

It's packaged really well in terms of visual style with not much time passing until the action starts to take hold. Currently clocked in at a little over 50 minutes, the story lends an otherwise abbrievated narrative hitman tale that pits weary assassin, Richard (James Conrado) against the seedy criminal underworld in which he's set his sights on someone special, a club dancer named Dallas (Zoe Thornburgh), in an attempt to free her from her maniacal boss, club owner, Ronnie (Marcus Merkoski).

Dancer explores most ends to a feasible stretch for our key characters here as Balazs immerses you in a neon-lit noir atmosphere that thrills with action when the going gets tough, and compels you on messaging with characters, principal and supporting, yearning for more and better. Conrado's boyish looks don't get too much in the way of his veneer on display as Richard, a stoic hitman on his way out following a tragic series of events that made him the killer he is now, albeit taken in and kindly mentored by Mr. Lyndon (John McConnell).

Actress Thornburgh's Dallas presents a serviceable performance that stands largely sufficient on camera both dramatically, as well as physically with at least one scene playing existentially to invoke some much-needed gravitas to the overall insistence of empathy. Merkoski's portrayal of Ronnie is appropriately designated throughout as a menacing, tattooed, snuff-addicted crook through and through with a gruff, imposing demeanor that stands formidably until the end.


Conrado is fantastic when it comes down to the fight action. I'm not too familiar with his level of training but with Dancer being my first outing, he doesn't disappoint. The finale certainly lends something a bit in excess as it's also the first time we see the Ronnie character throw down, but by then, Dancer has already instilled enough empathy to keep you watching and caring. Accompanied by Justin Cavenagh's scoring, the execution shows terrific handling of choreography and coordination by Alex Lukacs, along with legendary martial artist and film star Richard Norton, Aldi Godjali who lenses the scenes, and Balazs who also edited the film, further invoking a strive toward excellence.

Having covered the trailer last year, it was certainly a breath of fresh air learning of this particular project. Dancer looks like something I would love to see explored on a feature length basis as a more action-packed and more stimulating version of Dancing At The Blue Lagoon. For now though, I'll take what I can get and would certainly hope to see more from Balazs in his current career trajectory, and I certainly hope I get to share Dancer with you all in the process.

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