By RONNIE SCHEIB
A convoluted story of gay sexual intrigue with more twists than a designer
pretzel, this low-budget first-time-out effort by scripter Aaron Brown and
helmer Susan Turley may be a bit too clever for its own good. Like the
Argentinean "9 Queens" or Mamet's "The Heist," "M.O." flaunts its generally
nifty con-within-con-within-con structure, where everyone is ultimately
revealed to be blackmailing, cheating or cheating-on everyone else, and
hopes it will somehow constitute a worldview. The surprise-twist mechanism
works surprisingly well, taking on a life of its own that threatens to
continue ad infinitem (indeed, the rug-pullers persist well into the end
credits), but elements never truly come together. Pic should do well on the
festival and gay circuit, but wider distribution, outside possible cable
play, seems iffy.
Uneven thesping results in players registering as different than advertised.
The central couple, a 35-year-old established businessman (David Stokey)
and, we're told, his much younger "husband" (Cory Schneider), look to be
roughly the same age. Thus the sexual cachet of youth constantly referred to
in the script is signally absent from the screen, unless one considers whiny
emotional immaturity a turn-on in itself.
On the other hand, the dark spoiler to this idyllic couple, a
poet/drifter/drug dealer (David Christopher), who apparently latches onto
them for his own sinister purposes, has enough sexual charisma for all
three. But nothing is as it seems and who loves who, and who is using whom,
undergoes countless permutations before the final curtain.
Originally a three-character stage play, the triangulated action unfolds as
a series of talky, often shrill confrontations intercut with each other and
with a derivative subplot involving dope peddlers and a stolen suitcase. Pic
is so concerned with setting up its smoke-and-mirrors illusions and priming
its set piece traps, that it never quite settles on any point of view or,
more essentially, any focal point, relying on a succession of dazzling
quick-changes to substitute for orchestration.