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'Guys' simply dead on arrival

Story about hustlers in London is verbally uninhibited but visually coy. The result is a hollow, unfunny work.

November 21, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

The problem with "9 Dead Gay Guys" is not its dogged determination to be politically incorrect or its nonstop gross-out humor or even its rambling hit-and-miss style, but that it's simply so feeble and unfunny.

Chinese-Irish writer-director Lab Ky Mo's declaration that he is straight verges on the redundant because his film is devoid of any sense of authenticity in regard to the dynamics of gay sexuality. Lab takes tremendous glee in endlessly repeated clinical descriptions of gay sex yet rigorously avoids any expression of sensuality or eroticism. His film talks dirty while remaining visually so chaste as to be puritanical, and the effect is juvenile, to put it kindly.

Virginal Kenny (Glenn Mulhern) comes to London from Belfast because his pal Byron (Brendan Mackey) has given him the impression that the city's streets are paved with gold. Byron, a scruffy career layabout, has in fact found a way to make easy money to keep himself in booze by becoming a male hustler. Kenny is shocked but quickly comes to see it as a reasonable alternative to homelessness. As Kenny joins Byron in servicing mainly older johns, a number of them start winding up dead, but not because there is a homophobic serial killer at loose -- the deaths just happen for various reasons, all of which strikes Lab as amusing.

The key death is that of the Queen (Michael Praed), for whom Golders Green (Simon Godley), a wealthy Orthodox Jew, pays handsomely to share his spacious bed. When Byron discovers that Kenny is a regular John C. Holmes, he sees in him an ideal replacement for the Queen in Green's bed, where Green has reputedly stashed a fortune in its mattress. Kenny and Byron's sexual adventuring does raise their consciousness a tiny bit, and Lab teases at the notion that they may be beginning to enjoy their work -- Kenny especially -- and that Kenny may be attracted to Byron, only to back off and implicitly reaffirm their straightness.

Kenny and Byron have various encounters with a host of bizarre types; the most exuberant is a dwarf (Raymond Griffiths) constantly irate at being regarded as a midget and at his sexuality not being taken seriously. The best thing about the movie is the news that things didn't work out for Stephen Fry, the greatly gifted actor who starred in the memorable 1998 "Wilde," to appear in it.

*

'9 Dead Gay Guys'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Strong sexual language and situations

Glenn Mulhern...Kenny

Brendan Mackey...Byron

Steven Berkoff...Jeff

Simon Godley...Golders Green

Raymond Griffiths...The Desperate Dwarf

A TLA release of a Little Wing Films presentation in association with 9 Films. Writer-director Lab Ky Mo. Producer Lamia Nayeb-St. Hilaire. 9 Films executive producer Andrew Melvmore. Executive producers Robert Beven, Keith Hayley, Charlie Savil, Amanda Coombes, Amit Barooah. Cinematographer Damien Elliott. Editors Christopher Blunden, Jonathon Braman. Music Stephen Parsons. Costumes Jane Spicer. Production designer Nik Callen. Art director Gareth Underwood. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Exclusively at the Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 934-2944; and One Colorado Cinemas, 42 Miller Alley, Union and Fair Oaks, Old Pasadana, (626) 744-1244.

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