Appellate Judge Tom Becker will never look at a Philly cheesesteak in quite the same way.
"We'll always be together. We're brothers."—Trite sentiment repeated ad nauseam in Playroom
Wow, bi-sexual S&M porn disguised as a morality play.
Or is it a morality play disguised as bi-sexual S&M porn?
Whatever it is, it is wretched.
We have five guys who love each other and are best buddies. We know this because they continually utter these—and other—endearments, and they hug a lot. A whole lot. These guys spend more time in each other's arms than Rhett and Scarlett.
We first meet them when they are in high school, having some kind of party because some of them are football players. These scenes take up 20 minutes of the 86-minute running time and have nothing to do with anything that comes later. Just to throw us off and make us think there might be some hidden clue, we flashback to these scenes, one of which involves a bonfire. I'm guessing that it was a big deal to shoot this bonfire, and they didn't want to waste all that hard work on just a few minutes of footage.
We flash forward 20 or so years, and the guys are still best friends ("I love you, man!" "I love you too"). They're played by the same guys who were earlier cavorting as teens, which explains why I thought the party was being thrown by the parents of high school kids. The whole "aging thing" is covered by having the guys with male-pattern baldness not wearing wigs in the later scenes.
Anyway, the guys—they do have names, but it doesn't matter, and people played these parts, but you've never heard of any of them, so why waste the space?—head off for their annual football-and-drinking-and-coking-and-wenching weekend in Philadelphia. Two of them—the ones who are still in good shape and who, apparently, shave their body hair—hook up with a couple of hussies and end up chained to beds in a strange red room, where they find themselves at the mercy of a creepy, druggy older man who's always in the company of some leather-wearing muscle guys.
Old guy claims to be a porn producer who's going to send tapes of the guys and the hussies to the guys' wives unless they do some more porn stuff. Apparently, the porn industry is hurting for talent, so the new thing is to kidnap aging businessmen and force them to perform. At least their kidneys were safe.
When the guys balk at this and stupidly say things like, "We're not gonna do this! You can't make us!" while tied up and naked, Old Porn Guy does the next best thing: He outfits the girls with some strap-ons, flips the guys over, and…
And that's pretty much it. Two man-boys get sodomized for their sins while their doughy friends traipse around the City of Brotherly Love trying to find them. It's convoluted, boring, and idiotic, and it's supposed to be a thriller. I think a film about the prop department picking up gadgets and toys at the Pleasure Chest would have been more thrilling.
Lest you think Playroom was made for an edgy gay audience, the shots of the men's defilement is intercut with footage of a (female) stripper giving lap dances to the other guys at a club. Talk about your best of both worlds!
Strangely, this film goes way out of its way to avoid any kind of commentary on sexuality. The indignities these guys suffer are on par with what some people pay their local dominatrix to do. The beefy leather boys don't "interfere" with the victims, and there's no revelation about sexuality that might tie things back to the whole prolonged-adolescence, buddy-loving setup. And since the captors generously provide pajama bottoms for the bound boys, we are spared the sight of man bits, and this can be shown on late-night cable unexpurgated.
It's just another take on "torture porn," with buggery standing in for dismemberment. The acting and writing are embarrassing, and the big reveal—yep, this is a vengeance flick, it turns out—is stupefying.
As a DVD, this is barely a VHS. Put the disc in, press "play," and voila! The movie starts! None of those silly amenities like a menu screen, chapter selections, or set-up options. We don't even get an FBI warning telling us not to copy the thing. Not like that's going to be a problem. I'd be more inclined to copy over this disc, if I could. There's a crappy, non-anamorphic, letterboxed transfer and an uneven stereo sound mix.
Perhaps most offensive is the unbelievably misleading description found on the box:
"Playroom introduces us to Max, Jimmy, Norm, Nick, and Jason at the age of eighteen. Friends since early childhood, they have bonded deeper than natural brothers. As eighteen-year-old men, we share with them their dreams, loves, and friendships as well as life's hopes and frustrations.
"We, once again, meet them at age forty and learn how their lives have unfolded as we experience their marriages, strengths, and disappointments. Together they are capable of celebrating with each other their emotions in an open and honest fashion.
"The group is together now on their annual football weekend, this year in Philadelphia. While bonding and enjoying the vibrant nightlife, they become separated only to find a darkness they have never known. It becomes a struggle of life or death where everyone must pay the price."
I don't know what film the copywriter watched, but it wasn't this one.
Playroom is a silly, sleazy mess, but not so silly and sleazy as to be titillating or entertaining.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.