The 24th Day (2004)
Main cast: James Marsden (Dan), Scott Speedman (Tom), Sofía Vergara (Isabella), and Barry Papick (Mr Lerner)
Director: Tony Piccirillo

James Marsden and Scott Speedman spending the entire movie in close proximity, with one of them tied to a chair, oozing plenty of homoerotic tension from start to finish - sounds like a great movie, you say? Unfortunately, The 24th Day isn't that movie. This drama, which is based on the play of the same name, ultimately loses focus of what message it intends to deliver to the audience and ends up a rather bewildering mess of a movie.

The story is like this. Tom, a policeman, and Dan, a flamboyant Hollywood studio type, had a one-night stand five years ago. Tom had never cheated on his wife apart from this one time, but sometimes once is enough when his wife realized that she was somehow HIV+ and died in a car accident subsequently. That happened just 24 days before this movie takes place. Tom, filled with guilt, realizes that Dan must have transmitted the virus to him. He lures Dan, who doesn't recognize him, into his apartment under the pretense of a fling and then ties the man up and forcibly extracts Dan's blood to be sent to a lab for testing. As they wait for the results to arrive, the two men have a long of things to catch up on. Not that Dan will take his situation lying down - he begins trying to convince Tom that his wife probably cheated on him and got the disease from someone else. Lots of scenarios are tossed about but it is only in the final moments of this movie will the audience get any confirmation about who is telling the truth and who is delusional.

James Marsden embraces his role as the smooth-talking playboy the way a cat takes to cream - his Dan is a compelling character who can talk and talk until I am not sure whether he's bluffing or not. On the other hand, Scott Speedman is terribly miscast. Sure, he has a cute Boy Scout face that works well when he has to play nice guy roles, but Tom is supposed to a desperate and very angry man looking for someone to blame for his wife's death. Mr Speedman doesn't manage to make his Tom stand out - he is overshadowed by James Marsden to an embarrassing degree. Even more problematic is how he has so little chemistry with Mr Marsden in those flashback scenes that it is nearly impossible to imagine that Tom and Dan could ever get together that one time for a one-night stand. Mr Speedman plays Tom like the straightest boy next door in the world pretending to be gay.

The 24th Day is also a very preachy movie in a most confusing manner. Dan becomes a mouthpiece for issues like bisexuality, gay acceptance, and AIDS but it seems like the people behind the script forget that we are talking about a possible HIV+ fellow who insists on having unsafe sex with his partners. Am I supposed to take anything that Dan says seriously when he's this kind of character in this movie? I'd expect the message of this movie to be more on safe sex but instead the script is all about raging against society and its treatment of gay community. That's a fine message in any other movie, but definitely not in this movie, not when someone like Dan is doing all that preaching. In fact, with Dan being the one on the soapbox, this movie is in danger of delivering a message that is the opposite of what it is trying to say!

A muddled movie that doesn't seem to know what it wants to say, The 24th Day is nonetheless pretty watchable. Let's face it, we have two handsome guys on screen all the time, with plenty of close-up on their faces... what's not to love, eh? Only, I find it harder than I'd initially expected to take this movie as seriously as it wants me to.

Rating: 76

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