(2023, 102 min)
Director: Marco Berger
Studio: Dark Star Pictures
Language: Spanish w/subtitles
During a scorching Argentine summer, a group of friends get together at a luxury villa to enjoy the holiday. They drink, party hard, make videos together... and test one another's boundaries. A rare mix of homophobia and horseplay come together to create a wildly homoerotic atmosphere. Under the surface, jealousy and violence begin to emerge. A twisted triangle of friends - a repressed gay man, a secret bisexual boy and a homophobe - will push tensions to the limit.
As with much of his work, prolific writer-director Marco Berger expertly amplifies the homoerotic undercurrents of male friendships, exploring his characters toned physiques as much as their inner thoughts. While the surface of Horseplay offers a wealth of eye-candy, the film also offers an intelligent and challenging critique of sexual misconduct and toxic masculinity.
In Marco Berger’s homoerotic social satire “Horseplay,” a dozen buff Argentine dudes vacation together in a lovely villa, spending their days getting wasted, playing video games, arguing about action movies and pranking each other — usually while shirtless and occasionally while bottomless. Their favorite pastime is to take pictures of each other half-naked, posed to look they’re having sex. They think this is hilarious, because they are definitely not gay. No way. Not at all. Except maybe …?
There’s only one joke in “Horseplay,” repeated over and over: the joke of these guys making fun of homosexuality by play-acting queerness. But that’s OK, because this movie isn’t exactly a comedy. It’s more a series of thematically similar vignettes, only a few of which connect up into something resembling a story. There is some tension in the house, exacerbated by a few men secretly having non-pretend sex with each other. And later in the film, when a few girlfriends drop by, the rampant male nudity and unbidden groping starts to feel less like “goofing around” and more like criminal assault.
Some viewers may struggle with the elliptical qualities of “Horseplay,” and may find the movie’s shocking ending a bit abrupt. But anyone who has ever watched a certain type of guy up close — or who has been one of those guys — should recognize the truth in Berger’s keenly observed scenes of “ha ha” humiliation. This is a darkly astute study of how men in big groups can feel obliged to live up to the expectations of “boys will be boys” whether or not they actually enjoy it — and no matter where it may lead.
-- Review by Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com)