In The Company Of Men Review

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Two freshly single (read: dumped) white collar employees (Eckhart and Malloy) decide they are going to get even with every woman who ever made them feel bad. They conpsire to each date the same girl to the point of engagement, and simultaneously dump her. Their target is the sweet natured deaf girl Christine.


Something of a transatlantic talking point last summer due to its unflinchingly cruel treatment of women, LaBute's ultra-cheap ($25,000) debut is, in fact, a crafty concoction far removed from the realms of misogyny. Its storyline (two blokes exploit innocent woman for kicks) may be shocking but it never portrays said protagonists in a favourable light, and boasts a heroine far stronger than most. And despite the total lack of violence or graphic images, there's enough mental torture on offer to land the film among the year's most disturbing thus far.

Two white-collar employees at a nameless, antiseptic corporation - handsome, manipulative Chad (Eckhart) and speccy, snivelly Howard (Malloy) - are understandably unhappy with their respective lots: both of their girlfriends have ditched them, and they have been passed over for promotion. While lamenting their woes en route to a business engagement, Chad cooks up a plot - for the pair simultaneously to date the first vulnerable woman they meet on the trip and swear undying love, only to dash the victim's hopes in a manner that'll have her "reaching for the sleeping pills". The target of their twisted game turns out to be beautiful, sweet-natured but deaf secretary Christine (Edwards, playing hearing-impaired with real conviction). Something, somewhere, is destined not to succeed.

Christine's readiness to double-date the scheming twosome doesn't fully convince (it's hard to believe she would be date-deprived even with her handicap), while the all-talk format, flitting mainly between bedrooms, boardrooms and men's rooms, may prove wearing for some. Nevertheless this is compelling, memorable stuff, offering a glimpse of male bonding at its most dangerous along with three splendid central performances, especially Eckhart, whose personable manner and penchant for ritual humiliation (of both sexes, no less) make Chad as charming as he is utterly reprehensible.

A disturbing, well observed screen debut from director LaBute, while the three central performances are spot on.