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"In the Company of Men."

By Ray Pride

MARCH 16, 1998:  Chad and Howard are angry. They are not two 32-year-old men who would work in an office, but an office environment. They do not talk, but interface. A low buzz of jargon to keep the meaninglessness at bay. Strong coffee. Long breaks in the toilet. But then a fracture in the routine. Stuck in a faceless airport-Fort Wayne, Indiana, actually-they compare notes on their recent disappointments in the arena of love and lust. "Somebody rejects me, a woman, it just makes me-ah!-I can't stand it." Grumble, grumble. Male rage is articulated. Chad has been dumped by his latest twist in a nasty way, he says: her post-relationship behavior "was no thanks for four years of a roof over her bleach-blonde hair." Howard's hurt is less articulate, despite a broken pledge of truth, but Chad fills in: "If we were in India, we could burn that fiancee of yours on a pyre in the village square." The hairs on the back of your neck stand up-Wow, this is mean. Gorgeous writing, Mamet meets Pinter meets Hartley meets... Hey! A new minimalism! Then: yes, this is politically incorrect. "Life is for the taking, is it not," Chad plots with Howard over a bunch of beers. All first films could earn the title of Kubrick's suppressed first feature, "Fear and Desire." "In the Company of Men" deserves it. Speaks the unspeakable, thinks the unthinkable, and makes compelling drama of it all. This is not Adrian Lyne dandling the zeitgeist and telling it to cough-"Flashdance," "Fatal Attraction," "Indecent Proposal"-but a piercing drama delineated with keen moral intelligence. With Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy, Stacy Edwards. (Ray Pride)

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