In The Company Of Men

1997, Movie, R, 93 mins

Review

IN THE COMPANY OF MEN
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A bitterly promising screenwriting-directing debut from playwright Neil LaBute. Handsome Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and mild-mannered Howard (Matt Malloy), cogs in the machine of some anonymous business, are on a six-week project out of town. Howard, fresh off a romantic meltdown, is ostensibly in charge. But it's obvious to everyone but him that the seething, devious, glad-handing Chad calls the shots. And it's Chad who suggests the game: On behalf of all men who've been done wrong by women, Chad proposes symbolic revenge. He and Howard will both seduce some vulnerable local girl and then dump her simultaneously, right before they return home. What a glorious victory for the walking wounded in the battle of the sexes! The girl they choose is pretty, deaf Christine (Stacy Edwards), who blossoms under their attentions and falls hard for Chad. A bleak comedy of amorality, this is neither the misogynistic rant nor the masterpiece it's been tagged by various writers. For all that its obvious subject is the war between men and women, it's equally about the dog-eat-dog backbiting that boils just beneath the surface of corporate camaraderie, and Chad the cad is an equal-opportunity scumbag. The movie's weak link lies in the performances -- perhaps LaBute's directing skills aren't yet the equal of his proficiency as a writer. While Edwards is phenomenally good as Christine (and no, she's not really deaf), Eckhart and Malloy too often seem as though they're participating in an acting exercise, pausing just a little too long between lines, posing just a bit too self-consciously, feeling their way through dialogue whose barely repressed venom should slip off their tongues like rancid butter. But that's a relatively minor criticism; this is a film worth seeing, and LaBute is a filmmaker well worth watching. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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