54 (1998)

It's said there's a longer cut of 54 that can miraculously turn this mediocre dud into a great motion picture... but if you've prepared a plain meal and add more food, you'll probably wind up with... more plain food on the table: And it's a stilted, cautious one at that, since... despite the R-rated T&A raging inside the infamous New York City 1970's Studio 54 nightclub, where only mostly-ugly rich celebrities or beautiful nobodies could enter... there's a standard-dialogue/TV-movie vibe from the very beginning, even making Mike Myers' otherwise decent attempt at playing gay nightclub mogul Steve Rubell seem watered-down, cliche and predictable...

And back when flavor-of-the-month Ryan Phillippe (here allowed into the club while buddy Mark Ruffalo's too ugly to enter) may have been a more legitimate actor than former rapper Marky Mark Walhberg, there's simply no touching PT Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS, which 54 attempts but without the inspired muse of Scorsese-meets-Tarantino's contagious celebration of gritty exploitation cinema (and Phillipe's stale narration proves how comparably brilliant GOODFELLAS' Ray Liotta was)... Instead, 54's a bland one-night-stand that lacks the necessary nerve to go all the way while random side-characters lethargically add to a mainstream feel-good movie (with pallid traces of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER melodrama), clumsily attempting yet another anything-goes/based-on-a-true-story expose: Like naive bartender Brecken Meyer's Afterschool Special-style drug addiction; Salma Hayek's attempt to be a music star straight from an episode of FAME; or Neve Campbell's famous TV starlet, half as pretty as the pretty boy supposedly obsessed with her... So, overall, there's no saving a picture that has recently laid practically all blame on producer Harvey Weinstein, supposedly having edited-out the story's inner-core, and yet, if that's the case, how do you explain PULP FICTION? Well... the difference is the director, folks, who in this case didn't jump in with both feet... to end up wading in extremely shallow waters. Rates: **

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