Sep 4, 2011

[Movies] Third Man Out (2005)

Third Man Out (2005)Over two years ago, I received a review copy of On the Other Hand, Death: A Donald Strachey Mystery as part of the marketing efforts around the DVD release of the movie. However, early 2009 was a rather turbulent time for me personally and I never got around to watching the movie nor writing anything about it.

Recently I came across the DVD and decided to finally get around to watching it. However the movie is a part of a series of movies, and thus it only seemed proper to watch all of them and not just the DVD that had been sent to me. Thus this is the first of series of review posts dedicated to the Donald Strachey mystery movies and I do hope you enjoy the little adventure of watching all four movies, even if only through these reviews.

And what is it with gay mysteries as a book and movie genre? Does this tape the same area of our cultural awareness that make home brew gumshoe stories such a hit with the ladies as well? Or is a love for mysteries a universal concept that transcends gender definitions if only because people generally appreciate the investigative process and how it eventually unfolds to reveal the culprit at the heart of things?

It's certainly something to ponder.

Third Man Out is the first of a series of TV movie adaptations of the Richard Stevenson novel of the same name. It's an LGBT mystery movie that first debuted on the here! network.

The movie begins like any other mystery - with the crime in question. In this case, we have investigative journalist John Rutka (Jack Wetherall) and the man who shares his home (and his bed) Eddie Santin (Woody Jeffreys). A quiet night alone together turns to tragedy when Rutka is shot by an unknown assailant. He's rushed to the Albany Medical Center and survives the gunshot. At the same hospital, private detective Donald Strachey (Chad Allen) arrives to meet up with his partner Tim Callahan (Sebastian Spence), who is accompany his state senator boss for a photo op.

Strachey eventually finds himself dealing with Santin, who begs him to investigate Rutka's attack and find the perpetrator. Initially Strachey refuses the job since he disagrees with Rutka's journalistic efforts to out closeted public figures who use their positions to push homophobic agenda items. But with looming renovations bills and other expenses, he eventually agrees to an offer from Rutka himself. But the case is a lot more than it appears to be given Rutka's line of work and it seems there's no shortage of possible suspects but very little for Strachey to start on. And Rutlka seems to have no shortage of potential suspects either.

The movie plays out like an old gumshoe mystery - the humor definitely has a dry almost noir feel to it without the need for excessive fog in the shots and stuff like that. It's noted that the original books that these TV movies were based on were first released in 80's with this particular book debuting in 1992, naturally things were a tad dated and had to be updated to fit more modern sensibilities. But that doesn't take away from the charm of the movie in that regard and the writing remains sufficiently to the point while still indulging in some timely and yet still relevant banter.

Chad Allen is a pretty strong actor and he manages to provide viewers a pretty interesting lead to follow around. We know he has his fair share of issues given the allusions to his time in the US military and yet we also know he's a pretty strong and respectable character given how he manages to get past many of the obstacles placed in his way while still keeping his head (in more ways than one).

I also appreciated how he was written to have a nicely stable and loving relationship with his partner Tim. Instead of needing to resort to the LGBT movie trops of rampant polygamy or infidelity, they had the couple pretty well adjusted with a healthy chemistry between them. The chemistry was pretty touch as well. We need more positive LGBT role models on television and not just those who celebrate sex for sex's sake as opposed to lasting and meaningful relationships.

And what is a mystery without a good story, and this was definitely a fun story to follow. The clues were deliberate and not too far-fetched most of the time. The investigative process was reasonably logical without being too CSI-ish. And the final reveal was decent enough to be plausible without feeling like a last minute deus ex machina just to tie to the story together. That's not necessarily easy to do, and thus I really appreciate what was accomplished here. And best of all, the humor in the dialog felt natural and was often quite funny in a mildly campy sort of way. And yes, I do admit I have a soft spot for good camp.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie and it actually had me looking forward to the next edition. I'm not sure if I'd go as far as trying to read the original novels that these movies were based on but if anything this set a nice starting point for my ventures into the movie versions of the Donald Strachey stories. A lot of other reviews document the deviations from the books that were done, but I don't think those changes did anything to leave the story feeling awkward or badly written.

Third Man Out is a solid movie that can survive on its own merits. It's a nice addition to the world of LGBT movies, one that does feel a bit popcorn-ish but not entirely stupid either. It's just pure entertainment, and that's gold in itself. Thus the movie gets 4 cheesy ways that Donald and Tim remind us they're devoted to one another and quite hopelessly in love out of a possible 5.

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