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With: Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, Mike Myers, Sela Ward, Breckin Meyer, Heather Matarazzo
Written by: Mark Christopher
Directed by: Mark Christopher
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, drug use and language
Running Time: 93
Date: 08/28/1998
IMDB

54 (1998)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Clubbed to Death

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Legend has it that the famous New York club Studio 54 was a wild place where anything could happen and there were no rules. The movie 54 shows us a place where everything that happens has happened before (in Boogie Nights and The Last Days of Disco), and we can see it coming, but the characters in the movie can't. The movie re-creates all the flash, the style, and the sounds of the club, but it can't capture that particular feeling of excitement or newness that the club promised. Instead, it's like eating airplane food.

Shane (Ryan Phillipe) is a Brooklyn kid who dreams of the big time. He gets into Studio 54 one night because of his good looks. Later he gets a job there. He gets whipped up in the whirlwind of success, stardom, drugs, sex, and so forth, like so many before him. But he's genuinely surprised when things start going wrong. His family won't see him, and he doesn't understand why. Upper class Manhattanites make fun of him and he doesn't understand why. Soap Opera star Julie Black (Neve Campbell), who was nice to him in Brooklyn, doesn't want anything to do with him in the club--and he doesn't understand why. Finally I just decided that Shane is a moron. (Other plot elements, like Shane doing drugs and Shane getting sexually transmitted diseases, are dropped without a trace.)

Shane's best friends are Greg (Breckin Meyer) and his wife, Anita (Salma Hayek). They're young and married, and they both work at Studio 54. Anita dreams of being a singer. She demonstrates for Shane, and she's not very good. Will Anita be tempted to sleep with record company executives in order to get a record deal? Absolutely! But 54 only hints at this, and never shows it. Anita finally gets her big break and sings a badly dubbed song on stage at Studio 54 (she doesn't even hold the microphone anywhere close to her mouth). At the end, Greg forgives her, and they're happy again.

Mike Myers is the movie's saving grace. He is mesmerizing as Steve Rubell, the legendary owner of Studio 54. He acts underneath a fake nose and hair, reads inane dialogue, and must cope with the horrendous direction and the fact that he's only on screen for about 1/4 of the movie, but he pulls it off. He becomes a masterful, dramatic version of a Saturday Night Live character, full of nuances and tics. It's a case of imitation and not interpretation, thanks to the limitations of the movie, but he shows here that a real director and a good script could do great things for him.

The movie is written and directed by Mark Christopher, who had some success at film festivals with short films. I have discovered that he now has a two-picture deal at Miramax, which proves that there is no justice in the world.

I was hoping to be able to recommend 54 from a camp point of view, possibly the next Showgirls. But it's not. The fact is it's so uninvolving, it's not even interesting enough to be bad. Even Neve Campbell and Salma Hayek (two gorgeous women) are photographed uninterestingly. They could be anyone here.

And if you're thinking of seeing the movie to hear the cool soundtrack of 70's disco songs, forget it. I can't remember what any of the songs were, and they were pretty forgettable when I was listening to them during the movie. Rent Boogie Nights or Jackie Brown or Saturday Night Fever instead. 54 just left me feeling yucky and drained.

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