Given the volume of awful gay thrillers that arrive in my mailbox for review, it’s surprising that I’d never seen a single film chase scene take place in a gay bathhouse before Spanish writer-director Juan Flahn’s suspense-comedy Boystown (Cheucatown).
It’s the perfect setting for artificial suspense, with its low light, steamy fogbanks and naked strangers — and Flahn uses the location for a pitch-perfect hunt that is all at once tense, hot, and hilarious.
Of course, much of the “hot” in that scene comes from baddie Pablo Puyol, whose turns in this film and 2006’s 20 Centimetres have made him Spain’s go-to actor for gorgeous gay supporting roles with nude scenes.
Puyol delivers a shockingly devilish performance here as a real estate developer who’ll stop at nothing, not even murder, to sanitize Madrid’s gay village, converting it into a neighbourhood where proper yuppie gay men live in elegant apartments, where remote controlled curtains shut out the madding crowd of bears, prostitutes and old ladies who give the neighbourhood its current flavour.
Puyol’s plan goes foul when his latest victim wills her apartment to her downstairs neighbour, one half of a bear couple, who invites his mother to move into the newly available unit.
Mother comes in as a scheming harpy, planning from her first second on screen to split up her son from his boyfriend. Her antics and barbed comments toward her son-in-law provide some of the best moments of comedy in the film, as does the bumbling yet surprisingly effective investigation into the murders by a mother/gay son detective team.
Boystown is that rare treat among gay films that manages to be both technically accomplished, well-scripted and acted, and hilarious, while also delivering a message about the homogenization of gay culture and the importance of our ties to our communities.
And yes, Puyol does a nude scene (non-frontal).