In the Company of Men [1997]

Two bored businessmen, exiled to a remote company outpost on a six-week business trip, decide to enliven their visit by romancing a deaf woman and then savagely dumping her. Slimy Chad (Aaron Eckhart) convinces schlumphy Howard (Matt Malloy) to take part in the vicious scheme by framing it as an act of revenge against uppity womankind, but it quickly becomes apparent that he harbors some even more sinister motives. What might have been a simple exploration (some, no doubt, would say reiteration) of straightforward misogyny is elevated by the remarkable performance of Eckhart; at once charming and nauseating, his fascinating interpretation of pure competitive evil dominates the film. Neil LaBute's intelligent script is somewhat reminiscent of Whit Stillman's darker moments (minus the collegiate cleverness and zany warmth), and his direction, while rarely visually impressive, does connote the hellish impersonality of corporate interiors with chilling success. The director-screenwriter deserves additional plaudits for resisting both the tidal pull toward poetic justice and the temptation to draw either of his main characters as even slightly sympathetic. A study in ugliness, a rubbernecker's delight, a time bomb. --Miles Bethany

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