Chris: "Say…[did] anything happen last night?"
Regular Guys (Echte Kerle) is a 1996 German comedy about a straight cop who faces an unexpected crisis in his sexual identity. The film's co-writer and director, Rolf Silber, has said that his five-year experience as the "token straight guy" living in a house full of gay men was part of his inspiration. The film proved popular in his home country, where it was nominated for two German Film Awards, winning for Best Editing. It was also screened at several international film festivals, playing to both straight and gay crowds. Says Silber: "Growing acceptance of gays opens up new possibilities for movie plots, and comedy can expand into new realms."
Facts of the Case
Chris (Christoph M. Ohrt) is a macho, luckless police officer involved in a stakeout of a stolen car ring with his partner, Mike (Oliver Stokowski). Chris' two main passions in life are cars and soccer—his fiancée finishes a distant third. One day he returns from work to find that his fiancée is leaving him for a more sensitive, muscle-bound stud. As he walks the streets with his possessions, unsure of where to go, he bends down to pick up a lucky coin on the pavement, and a passing vehicle crushes his luggage. Abandoning his possessions, he drinks as he wanders, and finally stumbles into a gay bar, where he meets Edgar (Tim Bergmann). When Chris passes out in the bar, Edgar comes to his rescue and takes him home.
Chris awakens in the morning and slowly realizes he has been sleeping naked with another man on purple satin sheets. Did they or didn't they? Chris can't recall, and Edgar refuses to tell. When Chris is unable to find another place to live, he reluctantly moves in with Edgar, a mechanic who does work on stolen cars. After Chris is unable to perform sexually with a female colleague, he begins to further question his sexuality. Edgar is falling in love with him. The guys on the force are beginning to whisper. Is he or isn't he?
If not for the subtitles, you could easily mistake Regular Guys for a slick, Hollywood film. It's an accessible comedy—good escapist fare, but also unlikely to stick with you very long. The plot is a carefully constructed house of cards, and if you question too closely what you're watching, the whole thing might cave in. But if you can suspend disbelief and let it play itself out, it's enjoyable. The premise of the film may bring to mind other "confused sexual preference" comedies, such as Victor/Victoria, In & Out, and Chasing Amy. The film is unrated but, in the European tradition, there are quite a few casual shots of male nudity on display here—not in a sexual way, but in a police-officers-showering-in-the-locker-room kind of way. The acting is good overall, with Tim Bergmann (who was nominated for a German Film Award) particularly charming as Edgar.
Regular Guys was shot in color with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Unfortunately, this DVD is apparently a pan-and-scan, full-frame version. I say "apparently" because the DVD case only identifies it as "full-frame," and doesn't include a statement that the film has been "modified" or "formatted to fit your screen" (the framing of the film doesn't suggest an "open matte" presentation, which is another possibility). I also suspect that it was transferred from a PAL master, since I can see some ghosting artifacts in scenes featuring motion. The picture otherwise looks good, except for some rare edge enhancement. A single audio track features the German dialogue, and there are forced (non-removable) English subtitles. The sound is stereo, and is a bit bass-heavy and muddy, but dialogue is easily heard. The only extras on the disc are four trailers for other TLA releases (the trailer for this film is not included).
A predictable but winning German comedy, Regular Guys is that rare crossover film which aims to please both gay and straight viewers. It mostly succeeds. Please note that at least one online retailer is listing the DVD under the film's German title, Echte Kerle. Under either name, it's at least worth a rental.
On the one hand, the court praises TLA Releasing for making Regular Guys available on DVD. On the other, we're a bit disturbed that this widescreen film has been released as full-frame only, which, in the court's eyes, should be verboten. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
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