JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Into the Lion's Den (Director: Dan Lantz) - March 11, 2012
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Into the Lion's Den

3.5 3.5
83 min.

Grizzly road trip queerly entertaining

Road trips from hell are nothing new. Three gay buds—two with pasts they’d prefer to forget; one who can’t wait to expand his, er, reach when he arrives in the Big Rainbow Apple—learning more about each other than they’d bargained for is hardly cutting-edge, creative drama.

Small town residents who most certainly are not what they seem to be—equipped with unusual deadly weaponry that resonates well with Straw Dogs and Deliverance—risk unfair comparisons with cinematic masterpieces.

A few generous helpings of full-frontal revelations give the sexual element an edge whether wanted, hoped for or “needlelessly” induced (the latter being a reverse rape where the post-coitus payoff more than settles the bully-bitch score).

The inevitable clichés and set-piece scenes (the snarly motel clerk soon—and conveniently—drinks the whisky away with one of the gay blades—perhaps room service might suddenly take on new meaning?) are readily endured. After all, it’s just a movie—right?

Gluing everything together is Philip Malaczewski’s maiden screenplay gamely directed by Dan Lantz, whose sense of pace keeps the proceedings moving steadily forward (if perhaps far too liquored to have everyone’s equipment ready for action). Lantz is also well served by the ensemble’s determination to unabashedly throw themselves into their roles. It’s just fun to be sharing their space no matter who does what to whom.

Fresh from Eating Out: Drama Camp (the series ought to have ended there—Eating Out: The Open Weekend fails on nearly every front, missing the zip, zest and occasional heat of its predecessors), Ronnie Kroell leads a merry chase across the country as he cruises for fresh meat along the way via a hook-up website aimed at carnal satisfaction no matter how small the population might be. Jesse Archer (also from Drama Camp and briefly seen in Boy Culturecross-reference below) is appropriately moody as Johnny, trying to move on after his ex fessed up to an infection most foul.

Running the remote bar where most of the happenings take place are take-it-like-a-man Frank (Michael Mcfadden is readily convincing as the dungeon master) and his I’ll-put-up-with-your-fantasies-if-you’ll-permit-me-mine wife, Betty (Jodie Shultz positively salivates whether lining up her prey in the crosshairs, or going for a joy ride on an unlikely agent of penetration).

The sleeper of the film comes in the quietly alluring form of Kristen-Alexzander Griffith. Playing Ted, who with one notable exception seems the least experienced of the queer amigos, Griffith graciously lets his co-stars dominate the production but sends the tenor and tone to an unexpectedly higher plane with his pitch-perfect, nuanced delivery of the thoughtful coda. Saving best for last is personified in this final speech and whets the appetite for an encore with Griffith in top billing. JWR

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