The slyly amusing "Party Crashers" pretty well summarizes '90s U.S. indie cinema by aiming somewhere dead between Tarantino (comic crime spree) and Whit Stillman (comic twen-tysomething relationship yak-fest).

The slyly amusing “Party Crashers” pretty well summarizes ’90s U.S. indie cinema by aiming somewhere dead between Tarantino (comic crime spree) and Whit Stillman (comic twen-tysomething relationship yak-fest). Set almost entirely at a shindig invaded and held hostage by robbers — with very little difference between criminals and captives, as it turns out — pic is a slick diversion, albeit one without the first-class quips or clever plot twists to guarantee a significant theatrical life. If latter fails to come through, it’s natural tube and vid-shelf filler, as well as a solid resume-builder for all involved.

His latest high-minded screenplay having failed once again to attract sales, a gay writer (writer-director Phil Leirness) refuses to sell out — instead, he’ll simply collaborate with his bisexual actor b.f. (Burt Bulos) and their surly pal (Josh Randall) to hold up an A-list party they’ve been tipped to, and thereafter live free of financial pressure. Plan is to sneak into penthouse fete of a Hollywood attorney (Christopher Jacobs), knowing that blond rich chick Carolyn (Shawnee Smith) will be there. While the other guests are kept on ice, the thieves will place a call to Carolyn’s mother (Maureen Byrnes) and stepdad (John Saxon), demanding $5 million ransom for her safe return.

Turns out excitement-hungry Carolyn doesn’t care a whit about this situation, feeling no great loyalty toward her parents. Indeed, after some mild initial disgruntlement, she and other partygoers decide to take it all in stride — continuing to drink, drug, dance and flirt the night away as planned. Only the host and a couple of his more macho friends feel driven to plot an upset, which the amiable criminals quickly thwart.

Short feature has a droll, blase tone, if perhaps a bit too much so for its own good. Wittier dialogue might have given bright but slender premise a little more ballast. Leirness tries to pull a number of last-minute surprises — of the double- and triple-cross variety — but there’s been so little suspense or import built up prior that these revelations seem gratuitous.

Nonetheless, “The Party Crashers” is good-looking, techni-cally resourceful, attractively cast and assuredly paced; its caustic humor goes down easily, even if you may feel hungry again not too long afterward.

The Party Crashers

Production

A Cinema Arts Entertainment presentation of a Peter Leirness Movement production. Produced by Phil Leirness.Executive producer, Pierre-Richard Muller. Directed, written by Phil Leirness.

Crew

Camera (color), Matthew Libatique; editors, Karen Kory, Trudy Yee; music, Sid Hillman; production designer, Mi-chelle Spears; art director, Stacie B. London; costumes, Cindy Dalvano; sound, Lionel Ball; assistant directors, Lora Zuckerman, Danny Cistone. Reviewed at Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose, Calif., Feb. 27, 1999. Running time: 77 MIN.

With

Mr. Foster - John Saxon Gigolo - Max Parrish Former Athlete - Peter Murnik Carolyn - Shawnee Smith Writer - Phil Leirness Actor - Burt Bulos The Bruise - Josh Randall Attorney - Christopher Jacobs Musician/Record Executive - Sid Hillman Mrs. Foster - Maureen Byrnes

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