Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Hard

By Marc Savlov

FEBRUARY 14, 2000: 

D: John Huckert; with Noel Palomaria, Malcolm Moorman, Charles Lanyer, Michael Waite, Steve Andrews, K.D. Jones, Bob Hollander, Ken Narasaki. (Not Rated, 102 min.)

It's hard to know what to make of Huckert's directorial debut: It's part Cruising, part Silence of the Lambs, and part generic coming-out story, and though it tries mightily to subvert the conventions of modern gay cinema, too frequently it ends up aping the stereotypes that critics of the straight cinema found so dismaying to begin with. Palomaria plays Detective Raymond Vales, a closeted gay man who's just been given his detective's badge and entered the cloistered world of the LAPD upper echelons. Huckert and co-writer John Matkowsky parallel Vales' story with that of a gay serial killer, Jack (Moorman), who has driven into town looking (and acting) like The Hitcher's younger, nastier brother. As Vales struggles to conform to the rigidity of his new role and the mentoring of his new partner, Detective Tom Ellis, he also spends his (occasional) nights cruising the local bars and trying to pick up a date who won't discover he's a cop. This leads to some vaguely humorous scenes of Vale's surreptitiously "patting down" his prospective partners as they grind against him on the dance floor, and, at one point, he unknowingly brings home another semi-closeted cop from one town over. As the bodies from Jack's crime spree mount, Vales and his partner stake out the gay bars, until, unsurprisingly, the cop and the killer meet. Unfortunately for Vales, his instincts prove disastrously wrong and he ends up taking maniac Jack home with him, where the he promptly has his badge and gun stolen. At this point there's no way for him to remain closeted in front of his colleagues, and as he outs himself a flurry of predictably homophobic reactions ensue. And still the bodies mount. There's an interesting subplot concerning Jack's new "roommate," a married sad sack named Andy (Waite), who allows himself to be used and abused for the sake of male companionship, but the rest of the story bogs down in unintentional clichés, godawful dialogue (as when the elder Ellis announces "Now comes the hardest part of our job," as he prepares to knock on the door of a victim's mother), and generally insufficient plotting. To its credit, Hard doesn't, um, screw around when it comes to its depictions of gay sex ­ the film is full of bareback, pillow biting free-for-alls, and handcuffs are clearly not for cops only. Still, raunchy sex isn't going to save Huckert's film from recurring bouts of silliness, and Movie of the Week dialogue that cornily espouses the whole "why can't we all just get along" school of tolerance. It's not impossible to sit through, but, yes, you guessed it, it's hard.

1.5 Stars

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