In The Company of Men review by Peter Larkin

Neil LaBute’s In The Company Of Men (1997) 1hr 37mins

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, Matt Malloy.

American playwright and filmmaker Neil LaBute made his debut that starting with the line “Let’s hurt somebody” and he developed it from there. In The Company Of Men is about corporate culture and human cruelty in a very observed and realistic way. Two corporate businessmen Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy) are out town for six weeks for a work placement in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While having drinks in an airport bar awaiting their flight Chad, who is tired of how women of treated him, hatches a plan to seduce and then dump and a vulnerable young woman. Howard’s response to this is “Yeah… It’s just way out there” Chad is a master opportunity hater, and most of us in the audience are more like Howard an everyday man trying to get by. Men like Chad and Howard exist in your everyday lives, take a look around for yourself.

The vulnerable young woman at their office turned out to be deaf. Her name is Christine, she is played brilliantly by Stacy Edwards, you would swear was deaf, she is that convincing. Everything gesture and sentence she makes rings true. Chad asks Christine out and urges Howard to do after two weeks. When Howard does so, he asks the wrong woman who accepts. Chad calls Howard off to tell him. “You come on” “but I asked her…” to which Chad sternly replies “Fuck her let’s get a sandwich” Howard eventually begins dating Christine. The offices in “In The Company Of Men’ are murky, lifeless and shaped with people who likely to doing the same dead end job for most of their careers.

I won’t reveal any more. The rest of the plot should be experienced. The three main characters each give the best performances of their careers. Eckhart’s Chad is suitably slimy; he portrays it with perfect steely venom. Malloy’s Howard is heartbreaking. Watch out for the scene later on in a car when he says, “He is my friend” the shame, subtlety and beauty of the way that line is said is so truthful.

Neil LaBute’s realistic dialogue and storyline would continue to shape his magnificent plays, which continued to explore human cruelty and betrayal. In The Company Of Men was based on 1993 play by LaBute, first performed at his alma matter Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. It received an award from the Association of Mormon Letters. LaBute shot the film in eleven days on an astonishing budget of $25,000. $10,000 each from the executive producers who got the money from a car accident and $5,000 for the co-star Matt Malloy. By post-production they raised $100,000 with Sony Pictures. In The Company Of Men is a masterpiece of character study and should not be ignored.

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