In The Company Of Men

In The Company Of Men

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Now that political correctness is no longer the hip handshake of those on the higher ground, men behaving badly accentuates an anti-feminist approach to Nineties masculinity. This is the one they're talking about in the executive bog. It scooped the Filmmaker's Trophy at Sundance, 1997.

Neil LaBute is a playwright. His script reads like an e-mail from Buzz Central. Cinematically it's a talkie - the words walk, the visuals stand still. A trimmed cast perform with excellence. What hurts is the subject matter. Chad (Aaron Eckhart) treats the fair sex like emotional popcorn: bad for the complexion and sticky on the fingers. He's a misogynist who finds mental cruelty a turn-on. He's also a ruthless charmer, capable of ditching his best friend if it means promotion. Amorality oozes off him, like sweat. He has the self-confidence of a wart-hog.

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Howard (Matt Malloy) is Chad's buddy and boss. If he wasn't his boss, he wouldn't be his buddy. At high school, he must have been class swot and star of the football team. With computers, he's online, but in personal matters low self-esteem anticipates rejection. He's a whiner, with an aggressive under-ego that demands recognition.

They are off on a six week reorganisational program at a branch office in another city. Howard's pissed at the break-up of his relationship with his girl. Chad sympathises. He's having the same difficulties with his bedroom companion. Women, as far as he' s concerned, deserve pay-back. Fashionable feminist bigmouths rate guys as endangered species, he reckons. No more. No way!

"Let's hurt somebody,' he says. He persuades the weak and semi-willing Howard to play a game. They find a girl, right? Preferably vulnerable, reasonable looking and (even better) disabled. They seduce her. Together, separately. When she's hooked, they let her down with a whack and watch the pain. Tooo good! Howard knows it's not right, but he's been hurt, so what the heck. Chad's on a power trip. "Women, they're all the same,' he announces. "Meat and gristle and hatred, just simmering." He can't wait to get even. This is a white shirt, no jacket corporate jungle, where men are on top and women used.

Christine (Stacy Edwards) works as a temp. She's shy and deaf and a perfect victim. Things don't go strictly to plan, because with emotions involved there is always the possibility of premature dysfunction.

The film is clever, too clever. It is like watching torture in slow motion. LaBute would take that as a yes. There is no pleasure in his game. Sadism, however you wrap it, endorses the cruelest cut of all: man's ability to destroy. The worst aspects of male chauvinism are paraded with pride. LaBute avoids irony, or satire. He leaves the audience in shock to make up its own mind.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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In The Company Of Men packshot
Two men conspire to ruin a girl's life.
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Director: Neil LaBute

Writer: Neil LaBute

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, Matt Malloy, Emily Cline, Jason Dixie, Chris Hayes, Michael Martin, Mark Rector, Roxanne Butler, Tahira Essix, Julia Henkel

Year: 1997

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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