The 24th Day

Not since Larry Clark's KIDS (1995) has the threat of HIV infection been used so gratuitously, driving a narrative that ultimately has nothing to do with the AIDS crisis. Two ostensible strangers meet in a Manhattan bar and, after a few drinks, wind up back at an East Village apartment, alone. Dan (X-MEN's James Marsden), who works for a big-shot producer,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Not since Larry Clark's KIDS (1995) has the threat of HIV infection been used so gratuitously, driving a narrative that ultimately has nothing to do with the AIDS crisis. Two ostensible strangers meet in a Manhattan bar and, after a few drinks, wind up back at an East Village apartment, alone. Dan (X-MEN's James Marsden), who works for a big-shot producer, claims to have had only six or seven sexual partners and always practices safe sex. Tom (Felicity's Scott Speedman), a cook at a city restaurant, owns the apartment and seems a little nervous. After a few more drinks, Dan suddenly realizes that he's been here before, but he's a little fuzzy on the details. Tom, however, isn't: Five years ago he and Dan shared a one-night stand. It was the night when Tom is certain that he was infected with the HIV virus, and he's convinced that Dan — the only man Tom has ever slept with — gave it to him. This evening's casual encounter, it turns out, was a carefully laid trap and Dan walked right into it. After a brief struggle, Dan is bound and gagged and Tom is drawing a sample of his blood, which he then gives to friend to have tested. If the sample comes back positive for HIV, Tom assures Dan that he's going to kill him. While waiting for the test results, Dan and Tom talk about Charlie's Angels, Starsky and Hutch and sexual identity. Tom expounds on his not terribly profound belief that truth is relative, except for the true truth. As the hours drag on into days, quick flashbacks reveal that Tom — who was diagnosed with HIV 24 days earlier — has been tracking Dan for weeks, watching and waiting for the right moment to exact his revenge. If you think this chatty, two-character piece sounds like a play, you're right: Writer-director Tony Piccirillo conceived the idea as an acting exercise for a friend and that's exactly how the film plays. In and of itself that's not inherently a bad thing — both Speedman and Marsden are capable actors. But there's something deeply troubling, not to mention cruel, about Piccirillo's willingness to use AIDS as the ultimate consequence in a scenario about truth and sexual behavior, a scenario in which a gay man is once again targeted as patient zero.

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