ECHTE KERLE or REGULAR GUYS is a polished little 1996 comedy from Germany that manages to tell a tale of mixing genders and satisfy all viewers no matter their viewpoint. Rarely has a film handled straight/gay juxtapostions with such an unbiased, honest and relaxed vantage. So often these gender bender films have the look of mini-budget movies, but this film as directed by Rolf Silber based on a screenplay by Silber and Rudolf Bergmann is photographed with panache by Jürgen Herrmann is slickly creative and wholly professional.
Christoph Schwenk (Christoph Ohrt) is a plainclothesman police officer who does stakeouts spying on criminals with his partners Mike (Oliver Stokowski) and Helen (Carin Tietze). As the film opens Christoph is thrown out of his place by his 'ignored' girlfriend who has replaced him with a bodybuilder lover. Dismayed and angry, Christoph begins to drink, loses his car keys, his belongings on the street, and ends up with no place to stay as he stumbles into a gay bar where he passes out completely drunk. When he awakens he discovers he is in the arms of Edgar, a handsome auto mechanic who rehabs cars (?stolen?) and the question arises as to whether the two had sex during the night. Edgar is a kind and gentle man who evades this question, obviously feeling an attraction to Christoph. Edgar clothes Christoph so that he can find a place to stay and make it to work at the current stake out which just happens to be spying on car thieves.
At work Mike and Helen notice something different in the paranoid Christoph who is more interested in finding an apartment and resolving his question of the previous night's sexual occurrences than he is with work. Unable to find any kind of hotel or apartment at all, he sleeps in his car until he eventually has the nerve to accept Edgar's offer for him to move in with him. Christoph makes it clear that is his Straight and Edgar makes it equally clear that he is Gay and likes Christoph.
The relationship between Christoph and Edgar gradually strengthens, the threat of sexuality weakens to the point that as Christoph is seen in public with Edgar and when razed at work, Christoph sides with the idea of appearing gay and has a wonderful locker room confrontation with his fellow cops that says a lot about the barriers between gays and straights! Slowly, as Christoph settles into his new living conditions, he becomes enamored with Helen who is more than ready to pursue Christoph as she notices his 'machoisms' dwindle. At the same time Edgar's weekend lover Marco (Andreas Pietschmann) causes Christoph to query his surprising 'jealousy'. The three police become friendly with Edgar and Marco and when it seems they may be involved in the car theft ring under stakeout, they each find it easier to turn the other cheek and support each other.
The ending pairs off the various members of this story in a warm and funny way, a manner which some may find predictable, but still satisfying and allowing all barriers to be down.
The cast is uniformly excellent - the cameo supporting roles are very well done - and for once a film about straight perceptions of gay life makes ALL of the characters non-stereotyped: the men are all handsome hunks and the women are all beauties. This is light entertainment, a comedy with a message well stated. Grady Harp, April 05.