The Crushed Film Festival presents: The 24th Day
by John "the Couch Baron" Ramos
The Movie: The 24th Day
The Crush Object: Scott Speedman
The Story: Dan (James Marsden) is out at a bar with his hag friend (Sofia Vergara), whom he puts in a cab when Tom (Scott Speedman) invites him back to his place. After reading that sentence, I wouldn't blame you if you've already sent the film to the top of your Netflix queue, but I'm sorry to have to tell you that there's no sex on tap here — not even a kiss. What there is instead is a film that shoots for "taut psychological thriller" and lands on "Sominex on a DVD" instead.
Once Dan has been in Tom's apartment (well, not actually his, but who cares) for a bit, he comes to realize the two of them hooked up a few years back. This is problem number one — I don't care how hot you are (and Marsden is waaay up there), or how drunk you might have been, or how greasy Speedy's hair is in this film (very, sadly) — there is no way you don't remember hitting that. I mean, the eyes alone.
Anyway, soon Tom assaults Dan, takes him prisoner, and draws some of his blood to have tested. You see, Dan's the only guy Tom's ever been with, and Tom just found out he's HIV-positive 24 days ago, which is where we get the film's title. Moreover, he unknowingly gave the disease to his wife, and when she found out, she was distraught and got into a car accident that claimed her life. After that, Tom tracked down Dan and shadowed him, and upon seeing him still slutting it up without a care in the world, he made up his mind — if Dan's blood comes back positive, Tom's going to kill him.
Is the premise interesting? Sure, in theory, and by many accounts the stage play of the same name that's the source material was reasonably gripping. But it's pretty clear that director Tony Piccirillo, who also wrote the original play and the screenplay, is out of his depth in making the transition from stage to screen. From the bazillion intra-scene jump cuts, to the overacted, overdramatic, and overexposed blue flashbacks that let us in on the wife's death, to the most incredibly random scene between Tom and some aging female barfly, the film feels like it's at a loss in getting us from Point A to Point B in a memorable way — it's almost like Piccirillo doesn't trust his own material, with good reason in some instances. This isn't to say some of the exchanges aren't interesting, and they certainly raise some important, if not especially original, issues about sexual responsibility.
But Tom not knowing the title of The Empire Strikes Back is pretty ludicrous, and that pales in comparison to this preposterous exchange the two characters have about Charlie's Angels and Miami Vice and Starsky And Hutch and The Love Boat and Happy Days and this metaphor about chicken and steak and ordering in a restaurant. Seriously, if you feel compelled to watch this film, just keep the remote at the ready so you can skip this part. You'll be mad if you don't.
The actors, for their part, try hard with the material; Speedy is pretty decent, although he doesn't quite succeed in conveying Tom's anger at Dan and the world deeply enough to be completely convincing. Marsden's charm is palpable, and it's easy to see how he gets even more play than his looks alone would buy, but ultimately he never lets us see Dan as anything but a calculating narcissist; there's never any indication that he feels real sympathy for Tom's condition, nor any remorse for his own part in it. I'm inclined to blame the director on both counts here, though, especially for the latter, since I have great respect for Marsden as an actor.
The Backstory: The man was Ben Covington on Felicity. That is the extent of it, and is also all I should have to tell you.
The Embarrassment Level: Other than the fact that the film is slow, this one's not embarrassing at all — Speedman seems to be a really nice guy, and in fact, his interview here about the film is perfectly endearing, especially the part where he says he would have been up for kissing Marsden if it had been integral to the story (hear that, Somerhalder?).
John Ramos is a writer and film producer living in Los Angeles. You can reach him at couchbaron at gmail dot com.
Tags: Couch Baron James Marsden movies Scott Speedman The Crushed Film Festival