Director David Moreton achieves uneven results in this obsessive love story about a guy seeking closure after being dumped by his Latino boyfriend. Awkwardly juggles screwball and noir elements with macabre black comedy. The film traffics in enough hot guys and sexy action to tap the gay market, especially as a video/DVD release.

Attempting something more ambitious and sophisticated than his 1999 queer teen tract “Edge of Seventeen,” director David Moreton achieves uneven results with “Testosterone.” This obsessive love story about a guy seeking closure after being dumped by his Latino boyfriend awkwardly juggles screwball and noir elements with macabre black comedy in a mix that calls for a far lighter, more stylish touch than the obvious one at work here. True to its title, however, the film traffics in enough hot guys and sexy action to tap the gay market, especially as a video/DVD release.

One of the prime selling points for that demographic will be uber-hunk Antonio Sabato Jr. in a role that reveals what the model/actor kept under wraps in his celebrated Calvin Klein underwear ads. But while his sex-god character is the catalyst fueling the plot mechanics, he figures only marginally in the action.

Central character is Dean (David Sutcliffe), a graphic novelist whose creative instincts have hit a wall since Argentine lover Pablo (Sabato Jr.) exited his life without explanation. Ignoring deadlines and the demands of his smart-mouthed editor (Jennifer Coolidge), Dean impulsively flees Los Angeles for Buenos Aires, where Pablo has retreated into his world of family respectability and old money.

Dean gets no help from Pablo’s imperious mother (Sonia Braga) but finds a semblance of friendship from his ex-lover’s neighbor Sofia (Celina Font), who seems to know more then she reveals. Still stuck on Pablo, Dean rejects the advances of hotel bellboy Guillermo (Dario Dukah) and does likewise at first with Marcos (Leonardo Brzezicki), who initially appears to be stalking the American but later is revealed to be Sofia’s brother and Pablo’s former boyfriend.

Things become more complicated when Dean travels to Pablo’s country estate with Marcos and, after giving in to the latter’s flirtatious antagonism and sleeping with him, the Argentine’s instability leads to tragedy. While there’s still no sign of Pablo, Sofia’s role in the subterfuge becomes clear, as Dean’s confused feelings turn finally to anger and vengeance.

As played by Sutcliffe in a kind of cocky Russell Crowe-lite mode, there’s something especially unsatisfying and unsympathetic about the way Dean is drawn. Constantly wisecracking, he appears glib and insensitive but never for a second heartbroken, which makes his crusade seem about nothing more than a bruised ego. Argentinian characters all are duplicitous but played with mischievous appeal by the attractive cast. Coolidge scores a few laughs as a more brassy, authoritative character than her usual ditz.

Adapted from James Robert Baker’s novel by Moreton and Dennis Hensley, the script becomes steadily less convincing as it takes more dramatic turns. What might have worked as a stylish farce ultimately just becomes silly, but is sufficiently glossy to remain watchable. Marco d’Ambrosio’s tango-flavored score perhaps comes closer than any other element to striking the right note of playful irony.

Testosterone

Production

A Blue Streak Films production. Produced by David Moreton, Kathryn Riccio. Directed by David Moreton. Screenplay, Moreton, Dennis Hensley, based on the novel by James Robert Baker.

Crew

Camera (color), Ken Kelsch; editor, Roger Schulte; music, Marco d'Ambrosio; production designer, Jorge Ferrari; art director/set decorator, Juan Mario Roust; costume designer, Ana Markarian; sound (Dolby Digital), Perfecto San Jose; line producer, Margarita Gomez; assistant director, Ezequiel Crupnicoff. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9, 2003. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Dean - David Sutcliffe Sofia - Celina Font Pablo - Antonio Sabato Jr. Louise - Jennifer Coolidge Marcos - Leonardo Brzezicki Mrs. Alesandro - Sonia Braga Guillermo - Dario Dukah

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