On the confines of a stage, Tony Piccirillo's "The 24th Day" brutally demonstrated how the AIDS crisis spread two diseases -- the virus itself, and the fear surrounding it. The theater's confinement and the drama's pressure-cooker situation --a man holding the man he believes infected him hostage -- is lost on the bigscreen, despite Piccirillo acting as helmer and sole screenwriter.

On the confines of a stage, Tony Piccirillo’s “The 24th Day” brutally demonstrated how the AIDS crisis spread two diseases — the virus itself, and the fear surrounding it. The theater’s confinement and the drama’s pressure-cooker situation –a man holding the man he believes infected him hostage — is lost on the bigscreen, despite Piccirillo acting as helmer and sole screenwriter. After a short theatrical spin in upscale markets, following Los Angeles Outfest and Tribeca appearances, pic will quickly go to vid and cable, where it will be a better fit.

Tom (Scott Speedman) eyes handsome producer Dan (James Marsden) at a bar and takes him home. They chat about pop movies and, of all people, James Earl Jones. (A later bit of badinage about the original “Charlie’s Angels” cast suggests that the movie might have been better titled “Trivial Pursuit.”) Dan comes off the smart-aleck slickster while auds are meant to think Tom is a palooka and a sexual naif too slow to catch Dan’s drift.

But it is Dan who’s slow on the uptake. Drawn into a drab apartment that he only gradually recognizes, Dan is knocked out and tied up by Tom, who theatrically announces his agenda.

Tom had one gay encounter five years ago, and it was with Dan. Tom is now HIV-positive and is positive Dan is the culprit. To make sure, Tom draws some of Dan’s blood for testing. If it comes back positive, Tom plans to kill Dan.

Dan insists he’s “safe,” but Marsden doesn’t convince either viewers or Tom. Unlike Speedman, who subtly conveys Tom’s anger and paranoia, Marsden’s Dan is so obviously a little Casanova and professional BS artist that it defuses the drama’s tension and disrupts the balance of the two-hander.

After several backs-and-forths, Tom’s deep-seated emotional reasons for imprisoning Dan are revealed. The actors, alas, don’t rise to the occasion, and the finale just seems perfunctory.

Piccirillo and editor Aaron Mackoff try to open up the claustrophobic surroundings with “CSI”-style smash-cuts (accompanied by repetitive “boom” sound effects) showing Tom in the past and present, but the movie is never more than a hesitantly filmed recording of the play. Vid-to-film transfer is well above par thanks to J. Alan Hostetler’s solid lensing with PAL cameras.

The 24th Day

Production

A Screen Media Films release of a Nazz Prods. presentation. Produced by Nick Stagliano. Executive producer, Liliana Lovell. Co-producers, Brad Mendelsohn, Lou DiGiaimo Jr. Directed, written by Tony Piccirillo, based on his play.

Crew

Camera (Duart color, PAL DV-to-35mm), J. Alan Hostetler; editor, Aaron Mackoff; music, Kevin Manthei; music supervisor, Bryan George; production designer, Norman Dodge; costume designer, Leonard Pollack; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Ye Zhang; supervising sound editor, Timothy Anderson; line producer, Lynn Appelle; assistant director, Claudio Kuhn. Reviewed at Outfest, Los Angeles, July 13, 2004. (Also in Tribeca Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

James Marsden, Scott Speedman, Sofia Vergara, Barry Papick.

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