In the wake of the mass murder at Littleton, Colo., this indie psychological drama seems especially ill-timed. “The Reunion” centers on an embittered sales manager who uses his high school reunion to avenge the bullies who tormented him two decades earlier. Kicking off a limited run on Jan. 19 in L.A., pic will make a brisk transition to video.
A grainy B&W handheld schoolyard-set prologue opens the film. Later we learn that this opening is the personal recollection of Louis Witkowski (Tim Devlin): He’s never forgotten the day a pair of jocks cast the scrawny, naked Louis out of the locker room and humiliated him mercilessly in front of his schoolmates. No longer a 98-pound weakling, Louis has resolved to have the last word at his 18-year reunion.
Accompanied by his wife, Felicia (Elizabeth P. McKay), Louis anxiously tries to embarrass former football players Hal (Jack Mulcahy) and Joey (Patrick Ferraro). But Louis’ clumsy verbal jousting only makes him look ridiculous to the men and their wives, Caroline (Mimi Langeland) and Ashley (Leila Sbatini). Before long, they’ve all convened in the boys’ locker room, accompanied by Louis’ onetime best friend, a little person called Standard (Kristopher Medina).
Though Hal and Joey have no memory of tormenting their former classmate, Louis is determined to reciprocate, and challenges them to a fist fight. But when a well-meaning security guard (Edouard DeSoto) tries to break up the fracas , the violence escalates a step further, and Louis takes the group hostage.
Various sorts of ritualized humiliation and abuse ensue, including some particularly crude bits in which Louis forces Standard to suckle at Caroline’s breast and fondle Ashley’s buttocks. Bit by bit, Louis’ psychological warfare begins to undermine all the characters’ relationships, as husbands and wives disclose long-held hostilities about one another. Why it takes the cops so long to arrive and why they are so inept when they do are perhaps the most intriguing questions the pic raises, though they remain unanswered. Pacing and suspense, which should build steadily, nearly come to a standstill.
There are moments when it seems that writer Paul Corvino and helmer Larry Eudene are reaching for an updated take on “The Breakfast Club”: They’ve locked up a bunch of disparate people in a room and challenged them to reveal essential truths and painful secrets. But clever writing and Brat Pack charisma went a long way toward making “Breakfast Club” palatable. There’s little here to carry “The Reunion” but a powerful, showy performance by Devlin in the central role. Tech elements and lensing are competent but basic.