Brute Farce


An adroitly acted, crudely shot character study-cum-misogyny mudbath, Roger Dodger proudly flaunts its membership in a bizarre subgenre of recent American indie: the post-LaBute-brute harangue. Ostensibly satirical, the formula focuses on the predatory male of the species covering his nuts with prattle and theorizing ad nauseam about efficiently racking up bedroom conquests, à la The Tao of Steve, Your Friends & Neighbors, and any number of booty-call comedies. This sort of narrative investment never promises great returns—the wittily articulated case for sexual Darwinism is supposed to be its own reward, and rarely is. First-timer Dylan Kidd’s film isn’t Molièrian in its misanthropy, but rather as boneheaded as an hour of talk-radio hobgoblin Tom Leikis.

Shark-like, full-of-cum adman Roger Swanson (Campbell Scott) is Kidd’s voice of perverted reason, relentlessly regaling every other character with his knowledge of gender-combat nuance. We never see him actually talk anyone’s legs open, but Kidd makes sure his protagonist’s bullshit is self-confident and informed. Roger’s trial appears in the form of Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), his bright, semi-dweeby Ohio nephew visiting New York; virginal and sweet-natured, Nick undergoes Uncle Roger 101 in a night-long cherry-breaker.

Nick is the movie’s most idiosyncratic character by far, but in scene after scene Kidd squanders him on discomfort drama. Cagily miserable and chatty as a hyperactive neurotic, Roger is no more than an irritant; Kidd musters no insight into the grim pathology of the woman-objectifying, got-game living dead. Worse, the movie’s coda virtually paints him as a hero. Though Kidd’s dialogue does calisthenics, and Scott and Eisenberg work like dray horses, Roger Dodger avoids asking the thorny questions. As in, why is this insidious creep worth an entire movie?

An unimaginative hybrid of ? and Wall Street, the Australian econo-thriller The Bank pivots on the fractal-theory-based market prediction system of a young number cruncher (David Wenham), and the mercenary banking fat cat (Anthony LaPaglia) who hires him to foretell the next big crash. Polished and visualized with a sharp sense of place, writer-director Robert Connolly’s drama is propped up by bogus science (the relationship between stock undulations and the Mandelbrot set is never made plausible), and the characters are paint-by-numbers. When a parallel subplot about bereaved parents suing the bank in question finally intersects with the main action, the film trades its last shreds of credibility for nonsensical melodrama.

Credibility isn’t an issue for Stefan Ruzowitsky’s All the Queen’s Men, a graceless, witless attempt at mating Some Like It Hot with the WWII espionage thriller: A motley Brit spook team in drag drops down in Germany to infiltrate the women-staffed factory that manufactures Enigma machines. That’s what the dialogue says happens; what you see is a bloody, hair-yanking contest between the most deplorably staged action scenes and the lamest trannie jokes of the last decade. The fiercely original Eddie Izzard is wasted in this botch, not something you could say for lucky millionaire Friend Matt LeBlanc.