Testosterone

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Testosterone

Director: David Moreton
Runtime: 105 minutes
Cast: David Sutcliffe, Celina Font, Antonio Sabato Jr.

For a time in the mid-'90s, Antonio Sabato Jr. was the beefcake of the moment, a sculpted Calvin Klein model who looked like he was liberated from the cover of a romance novel. His fleeting presence in Testosterone, an insipid gay noir set in Argentina, goes a long way toward explaining why the film was picked up at all, but those hoping for a peek under the briefs will be hugely disappointed. With no less than three lean male bodies to go along with Sabato's, the film does offer a few furtive softcore encounters, but it might as well be retitled Waiting For Antonio, since Sabato's appearances bookend miles of convoluted nonsense. For the prurient, that's probably too much to endure.

Director David Moreton earned some acclaim for his debut feature, the 1998 coming-of-age drama Edge Of Seventeen, and he extends himself with Testosterone, which attempts to infuse the noir genre with offbeat humor and an evocative sense of place. Moreton's failures mainly lie in the shaggy-dog storytelling, but it doesn't help that his amateur gumshoe (David Sutcliffe) expresses himself best through his Don Johnson stubble. A successful Los Angeles graphic novelist, Sutcliffe falls into scruffy despair after his hunky Argentine lover (Sabato) disappears without giving notice. Leaving his deadlines behind, Sutcliffe hops on a plane to Buenos Aires and tries to track Sabato down at his family's estate, but Sabato's haughty mother (Sonia Braga) does everything to keep Sutcliffe off the scent. He finds a friend of sorts in Celina Font, the waitress at a nearby coffeehouse, but it turns out that Font's brother (Leonardo Brzezicki), in a not-so-crazy coincidence, happens to be Sabato's ex-boyfriend.

Terrorizing the locals with his ugly-American routine, Sutcliffe doesn't seem damaged by his lost love so much as empowered to act like a jerk. If only he were a compelling jerk, in the grand noir tradition of thugs like Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly, Testosterone might have navigated its loping mystery a little more smoothly. Sutcliffe seems unworthy of happiness or even revenge, which leaves only a lot of awkward, unmotivated scenes involving pistols, double-crosses, goons who behave like Keystone Kops, and other noir tropes. Even Buenos Aires, so devastated by the country's recent economic scandal, has been flattened out into an underpopulated backdrop, and it never gets the chance to assert its seedy character. Moreton shows plenty of ambition in his second feature, but somewhere in the space between page and screen, he lost the thread.

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