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When 'Stag' Goes Awry, It's No Party


Two young men, business partners, enter a tasteless, out-sized suburban home. One of them is about to be married, the other has surprised the groom-to-be with a stag party, a gesture he and everyone else involved will soon regret. You may, too, if you're stuck seeing the singularly unappetizing "Stag," a real turnoff of a movie that lays waste to a large, familiar cast.

When Mario Van Peebles' Michael cooks up the surprise for John Stockwell's Victor, he dips into Victor's address book. He never considers that Victor may not be so eager to see some of his buddies from the past, most notably Andrew McCarthy's Pete, a drug dealer and extortionist. Yet when the evening goes disastrously awry, Pete is the one man--no newcomer to crime--who keeps his cool. He's able to look at things exactly as they are and lay out bluntly realistic options.

No traditional stag of course would be complete without a couple of strippers. They're a pair of seen-it-all blond sisters, Serena (Taylor Dane) and Kelly (Jenny McShane). Kelly dances, Serena is supposed to have sex with Victor, who actually says thanks but no thanks. In any event, a bunch of the men, holding a blanket, use it to start tossing a screaming Kelly up and down in the air. Inevitably she slips off the blanket, falling to her death on a marble floor.

For the sake of the argument, let's say it might just be possible to make a decent movie from such an incident. It would take a filmmaker with a strong point of view and sense of style, a cool detachment and a ferociously dark sense of irony. Neither director Gavin Wilding nor writer Evan Tylor is up to the task.

What ensues is a predictable depiction of a group of men who for the most part yield swiftly to the impulse for self-preservation rather than decency. As the horror of what could happen to their lives over this incident begins to sink in, one man after another starts lamenting his fate and grasping for ideas as to how to circumvent it.

The cast just acts and acts away without ever becoming the individuals they are portraying. (A lot of bobbing hand-held camera work serves merely to expose the theatricality of the performances.)

The wrangling and subsequent catastrophes are relentlessly obvious and tedious, and none of the male characters is interesting enough to care much about. Only Dane's clear-eyed, plain-spoken and gutsy Serena, who tears into the pomposity and hypocrisy of a bunch of mainly highly successful males who see themselves above the rules, is at all involving.

"Stag" is a show easily missed.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: It includes much violence and bloodshed, some sex and nudity, much strong language.


Mario Van Peebles: Michael

Andrew McCarthy: Pete

Kevin Dillon: Dan

Taylor Dane: Serena

John Stockwell: Victor

A Cinepix Film Properties presentation in association with Rampage Entertainment. Director Gavin Wilding. Producers John Dunning, Michael Pasoernak. Executive producers Andre Link, Jeff Sackman, Gabrielle Kelly. Screenplay by Evan Tylor. Cinematographer Maryse Alberti. Editor Mark Sanders. Costumes Ane Crabtree. Music Paul E. Zaza. Production designer Phyllis Cedar. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Plaza, 1067 Glendon Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-3097, and Cecchi Gori Fine Arts, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 652-1330.

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