In The Flesh (1998)

(Premiere Date: November 1998 [Germany - Verzaubert Gay and Lesbian Film Festival])
(US Release Date: June 15, 1999 [Atlanta Film and Video Festival])
(Release Date: November 1999 [Out Takes Dallas Lesbian and Gay Film Festival])

Interesting film, betrayed by BUDGET!Interesting film, betrayed by BUDGET!1/2

Gay Cops and Street Hustlers make strange Bedfellows... Literally!

J.C. Mašek III... 
It's gettin' Gay in here!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!





In The Flesh is film festival fare, necessarily low in budget and completely independent. We start with the story of an altruistic, tough-as-nails cop, who is, in reality, Gay as Pink Ink! When he's assigned the tough-as-nails job of staking out a gay bar (called "The Blue Boy", no less) he's uncomfortably worried about being outed. But outed he is, slowly but surely, and it becomes a matter of love, class and sacrifice.

Writer/ director Ben Taylor puts a lot into making this an interesting story that could possibly be for anyone out there (with a few minor script changes, naturally). What could have come off as "The Pink Badge Of Courage" instead succeeds as an interesting mystery and drama. That's not to say this isn't a gay film. Oh, it is. This film is gayer that a Steel Worker in a Wonder Woman costume. A gay pride march looks macho and colorless by comparison. This film is gayer than Baron Harkonnen, Captain Jack Sparrow, Joel Schumacher and Jack Twist combined. In the Flesh is so flaming, you could light a cigarette off of it.

Gay.

Detective Philip Kirsch (Ed Corbin) is our tough-guy cop, assigned to stake out The Blue Boy to determine just who the eff-you-see-kay is selling that special white powder to everyone and their john. Enter complex street hustler Oliver Beck (Dane Ritter), a Blue Boy regular who leads a double life. By day he's a college student who works at Tower Records and occasionally has sex with his cute female coworker. By night he dons his red pants and tight shirt to become SuperTrick, a Gay Prostitute, faster than a flaming bullet, more powerful than a Homosexual Motive, able to do bald fat guys in a single bound. At least that seems to be the way ol' Phil sees him. Phil finds Oliver to be completely irresistable, and their one night of (bought and paid for) sex turns into an infatuation for that Kirsch dude... much to the (initial) chagrin of baby Beck.

However, before long a killer's on the bloodshot streets, and the victim (one of Oliver's johns) was last seen in the car with Oliver. The victim's car is found with Oliver's fingerprints all over it, and the only eye-witness to the crime is Oliver himself... which isn't much of an alibi.

But by this time, Phil's infatuation has grown strong enough for him to answer the question of whether he's more afraid of the gays finding out he's a cop or the cops finding out he's gay. Though it might cause Phil to lose his job at the Atlanta Police Department (and more importantly, Oliver to lose his job at Tower Records) Phil stands up for Oliver, and takes him under his wing. Unfortunately the question is still out there of who is dealing the drugs, who the killer is, and just who is in on this entire conspiracy?

The mystery is interesting, and the answer isn't easily arrived at (unless you watch far, far too much television... and I do). In The Flesh isn't a movie to watch half-assed. However, as I said, this is Film Festival Fare. Though it debuted seven years before Brokeback Mountain, those years might as well have been Dog Years. Here we have a low budget mystery, well written, but lacking in the direction department. Further, in many places, the acting is pretty bad. In others... it's really bad. All the actors seem to be giving their best and offer as much credibility as possible, but much of the time the lines feel like they're merely being recited. Occasionally it's hard to tell if a character's dialogue is intended to be sarcastic or not. Often a line that could well be comical falls flat, where another becomes wildly (though unintentionally) funny. Taylor seems to be working hard to balance a gritty mystery with high art and ends up with neither one. Many of the scenes involving the impossibly "pure" romance between Phil and Oliver feel more plodding and padded than truly interesting or central to the plot. While Phil often seems flat and dull, Oliver far too often just seems like a whiny little bitch. Half the time I was just waiting for Dastardly and Muttley from The Wacky Racers to burst out and berate him whenever he had a hissy fit.

All told, however, this is a well intentioned and imagined mystery, even if those imagined intentions don't always make it to the screen intact. When one peels away the filler material, it's still one that can keep you guessing. Given the right budget, In The Flesh could be a real keeper, especially for its target audience. As it is, it's still worth the time to watch it. In fact, I can see an In The Flesh TV Series in our future. Just a few minor changes... how about... a cop named Phyllis and her mysterious lover Olivia solve a crime in the first five minutes of the first episode and then spend the whole rest of the time in bed and...

Aw, man. I'm doing that thing where I reimagine everything as a Lesbian Porn again, aren't I? Well, what can I say? I'm a Feminist.

Two and One Half Stars out of Five for Ben Taylor's In The Flesh, the daring and well planned mystery just a little too long and convoluted for its own good. There are all kinds of movies out there, and all kinds of subgenres in the various genres. This one is not your standard cop show, not your standard mystery, and not your standard "Gay Interest" movie either. While it has its flaws and rough edges, it's good to stay sharp with a wide variety. So until next time, fans and detractors, I'll see you in the next Gold Lamae reel. It should be FABULOUS!!!

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In The Flesh (1998) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who is solely responsible for most everything written on this site.
And the fact that he's going to go home and sleep with his wife!
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