A hustler, surreally unable to find his way out of an apartment building, passes through a series of sexual encounters in writer-director Joseph Graham’s gay softcore-porn outing “Strapped.” Despite a well-worn, pretentious premise, uneven thesping and tacky sets, pic plays better than its simple synopsis might suggest, thanks in part to the clear compositional sense of Graham and lenser Matthew Boyd. “Strapped” unspools Sept. 24 at Gotham’s Quad Cinema; its sincerity may overcome its cheapo production values in ancillary.
Graham wisely downplays pic’s vaguely paranormal element, using dead-end hallways and simple lighting changes to create a “no exit” space as the gigolo (Ben Bonenfant) transforms himself to conform to his clients’ varying needs for sensitivity, understanding, self-delusion, etc. — until a demand for genuine affection offers epiphany. Pic deals in immediately recognizable stereotypes apparently manifesting key allegorical aspects of male gayness — the fearful quasi-virgin, the jaded sophisticate, the married gay in serious denial, the fatherly if tough old-timer and the tender lover. Though characters retain enough individuality to serve as foils for the hero, Bonenfant admittedly shows off his muscles more effectively than he does his acting chops.