I'm the kind of person who is always seeking out the most challenging types of experimental films within any kind of sub-genre. This one caught my eye in particular due to its promise of extreme behavior, gay themes, and sordid subject matter. Widely hated as a picture, it seemed to me at the time, I read most of what folks had to say about it and it seemed to be universally agreed upon as being an uapologetically off-putting film featuring all manner of disgusting acts and violent unsimulated sexual behavior. Being one of those people who likes to be challenged in all ways possible, including in the stomach, I tracked down a used copy at a local Hastings store in Kansas. I can definitely say that this film totally delivers the graphic and sordid content it promises in full...for about fifteen minutes. The opening sequence of this film is full of all the grisly graphic violence, sexual torture, rape, and mutilation of the body that you could possibly want! It starts off like a sort of crime picture about a renegade hitman being targeted by his own employers for death. Things fall apart one after another and after the blood soaked antics clears the screen, we're left with a fairly standard leather jacket love story involving two men who aren't particularly good looking and don't exactly ooze with screen presence.
What the film ACTUALLY is, for the most part, is a road picture following our main character, who is now retired from the crime underground, and his girlfriend, who is basically the only likable character in the picture and who unfortunately has to deal with her boyfriend's various issues involving his past. Throughout the picture the two engage in random sex with prostitutes. These scenes mostly exist for some strangely humorous moments that grow old and don't exactly teach us anything more about these characters other than bad luck follows them wherever they go. These scenes tend to slow the film down and, at one point, even bring the film to a dead halt when one hook-up turns into a violent accident (trust me, its nothing interesting). At times the film feels like its attempting to mix the feel of a 90s road movie with a Bruce La Bruce picture, but it lacks both the energetic tone and the smart satire to successfully pull it off. There are some cameos here and there and some clever dialogue that does help to move the film along, and to be honest its not like its as painful to sit through as most films of its kind. The best thing that I can say about FLIRTING WITH ANTHONY is that there is some intelligence in this screenplay that occasionally does bleed onto the finished product.
The film simply wears out its welcome after the first act and never really catches its footing until the final act of the film, in which the film improves significantly after a graphic bathroom sex scene. From there on out, the picture begins to come alive again as some brutally honest imagery and emotion begins to quietly and subtly build to the surface. The quiet energy and the simplistic tone of the final ten minutes of the film really struck me as something somewhat special, and its really to bad that the film doesn't really quite earn it. I was still surprised by it, however, and was relieved that the film didn't end in a lazy manner. It ended in a way that felt me feeling quite uncertain of the fate of these characters, despite the fact that I cared nothing for them. Ultimately, I didn't find the film to be frustrating or deceitful like I do most crappy gay themed films, and so I'd recommend FLIRTING WITH ANTHONY over at least half of the bad gay films I've seen. This doesn't mean that I recommend the picture as a whole, however, as it is simply too unsteady, lacking in focus, and there's little to care about when you're watching. I enjoyed the color scheme of the film (1st act = RED, 2nd act = WHITE, 3rd act = BLUE) and I think it had strong opening and closing scenes, but the film had no meat, no substance, and no texture. It was just sort of a hodge-podge of different styles and tones with little to sufficiently tie it all together. Ultimately, a weak film, but by no means is it the worst of its kind like some folks claim.