Picks and Pans Review: The Living End

UPDATED 11/09/1992 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/09/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

Mike Dytri, Craig Gilmore

This is one of those movies—think of it as an HIV-positive Thelma & Louise—that you're not allowed to hate. It wouldn't be politically correct even if it did show sound critical judgment. As Gilmore, a magazine writer, notes in his daily audio diary, the film begins on the day he takes his first AIDS test—and tests positive. His first mistake was falling for a man who was infected but kept the news to himself. His second mistake is picking up Dytri, a pistol-packing hotdogger who is also HIV positive and sure he isn't long for the world; thus, he figures, it couldn't matter what he does: Run up someone else's credit card, ignore safe sex, clobber homophobes—even kill a cop, then beat a retreat out of town, taking a newly lovesick Gilmore with him.

They wander aimlessly, pondering the meaning of AIDS ("a neo-Nazi Republican final solution," raves Dytri) and of life and death, stopping at various intervals to make love and collect phone calls. The Living End succeeds most at being self-conscious. When at a loss for convincing dialogue, writer-director Gregg Araki, who does far better by his male than female characters, resorts to rat-a-tat sprays of profanity. But there are funny, touching moments—for example, a sequence in which the two doomed men pass the drive time playing a word game they enjoyed as children—and Gilmore and Dytri make the most of them. (Unrated)

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