Picks and Pans Review: The Men's Club

UPDATED 10/13/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/13/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

There are bad, boring movies no reasonable person would expect to be otherwise. Then there are bad, boring movies like this one, frustrating because they could have been so much better. The plot, about a group of middle-aged men trying to achieve some kind of emotional connection, offers all kinds of opportunities. The cast includes such actors as Roy Scheider, Frank Langella, Harvey Keitel, David Dukes, Treat Williams, Craig Wasson and Richard Jordan. Among the women who appear are Stockard Channing, Gwen Welles, Ann Wedgeworth, Marilyn Jones, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Penny Baker. It's a big ensemble cast with nary a weak link. The weak links got to the film earlier: Leonard Michaels, in adapting his own novel, and director Peter (The Ruling Class) Medak, in allowing the film to drift. There is no focus, no momentum, no pace. There's a long knife-throwing sequence, for instance, that degenerates into a surreal nightmare. Then the men end up in a high-class brothel where they pair off for snippets of scenes that lead to a dotty happy ending. Flashes appear of what might have been—Dukes castigating Scheider for his philandering, Leigh seducing Langella—but nothing lasts long enough to make any impact and the characters don't ring true. (One example: Scheider plays a former major league baseball star with a .320 lifetime batting average, yet he shows no signs of the financial rewards that accrue to even mediocre ball players these days.) A better writer might have finessed all these lives into one movie. Michaels, however, seems neither cutting, perceptive nor witty enough. Where are Pinter, Shepard and Stoppard when we need them? (R)

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