216 Films // 2004 // 27 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // January 10th, 2006
Drinking, smoking, busting balls.
A 27-minute short film made in Cleveland, Ohio, is claiming to be in the same vein as Swingers and Clerks. That's a pretty daring comparison to make. Those two films struck a chord with their audiences because they wrote stories around the everyday frustrations of single guys. What does Joe Ostrica's short film offer that makes it comparable?
Congratulations. You've met the woman of your dreams and you've decided to get married and settle down together. To celebrate, one of your dearest friends wants to sit you down, catch up on old times, and tell you what he's learned from years of married life. Unfortunately, you've also got two pathetic bachelor buddies, who would love to take this dignified celebration and cram it full of booze, strippers, cigarettes, and porn.
Welcome to the world of Guys.
I'll give a movie like Guys all the credit in the world. Its goals are very ambitious: rather than trying to merely tell a story, the movie is trying to capture a feeling, an idea. Guys is trying to capture, and show the value of, the friendships men can create. Can a movie explain why guys tend to drink whenever they're social? Or, can it explain why men tend to act childish around their friends? And how do guys manage to express affection by insulting each other? In reality, the movie doesn't have to explain any of that -- not logically, anyway. Its goal is to show it, through the eyes of this group of men, and see if the audience can make the leap. I give it the extra credit because the goal it sets for itself is impossible, make no mistake about it. Like a painter trying to capture the human form, or a writer trying to describe a sunset, we know the work can never truly recreate what inspired it. Nevertheless, the end result is still worthwhile.
Take a look at what makes up this incredibly short movie. A bunch of guys stand around, bicker, and take cheap shots at each other. Imagine talking to your best friend, and he interrupts you with "Tell me something: are you living proof that married guys don't get laid enough?" What's happening here? Is your friend trying to embarrass you? Maybe a little. Is he trying to offend you? No. This line from the movie illustrates one key point of male friendships: forced honesty. There are some things you can't hide from your buddies, because your buddies are also guys, and they're wired the same way. They know something's amiss, but you (as a guy) won't talk about it unless you're confronted directly. Your buddies know this, so they bust your balls until you crack. And remember, these are your friends.
Busting balls, that's really all this movie is. What it can't offer in story it makes up for in character acting. Matt (Bryan Jalovec) is the stand-out character in the movie, and everyone clearly knew it. Proudly wearing his "As Seen in Porn" hat and not even having brains enough to buy his own condoms, Matt provides the more colorful side of the Guys experience. His acting drunk is spot-on, and his mannerisms are a perfect blend of tacky and immature. Matt's character is countered by Steve (Paul Shiban), the married guy who's eager to show that a more mature lifestyle can be fun too. Ed (Trevor Read, Babe) has no agenda, and simply wants to get laid. The guest of honor, Brian (Josh Lewis) is content to be the catalyst to get the whole night rolling. For better or worse, these are his friends.
Guys represents grassroots independent filmmaking at its best. One guy determined to make a movie, bankrolling it himself, and using his hometown for shooting locations. Sure, occasionally, you'll see hints that props were improvised, or that a compromise had to be made when choosing a location, but these were good improvisations and wise compromises. Creator Joe Ostrica describes the project as just him wanting to make a movie, at all costs. The guy just wanted to tell a story, and that is the absolute best reason to make a movie. The movie is essentially restricted to four characters, allowing for much story within its short running time.
Small-town independent films sometimes have to make do with what resources they have at their disposal. This can result in taking shortcuts, leaving the movie with a rough, "student film" look. You can see these traits in Guys if you look at the acting. Some of it tends to be very stiff and wooden (Pamela Irizarry as Lisa is a prime example). Granted, their role in the movie is mostly reactionary, but the lead actors seemed to have better chemistry.
Secondly, a making-of featurette and two drinking games are included as extras. The editing on each is choppy, cutting people off mid-sentence and then allowing them to continue. Again, it gives off an amateurish look, on what is otherwise a well-polished production. The video quality on the movie ranges from fair to good, but it's mastered in non-anamorphic widescreen. Why an anamorphic print couldn't have been made, I have no idea.
Brief and to the point, Guys plays out a few well-done jokes, and wraps up before it gets tired. What could just have been a pointless movie is turned into a success by a smart script and some actors who were committed to delivering a perfect Y-chromosome performance. As you'll see in the movie, men come in different varieties: some are pigs, some are nice guys, some are players, some are dorks. But each of us, every last one, is a guy. See this movie to get a glimpse at the power of our friendships. They harness a strange bond wherein deep care and concern can be expressed with the phrase "You okay, man?"
Guys are always guilty. The only question is, what did you catch us doing?
Review content copyright © 2006 Aaron Bossig; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: 216 Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 27 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Making of Guys
* Drinking Games