54 (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Period Film, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 28, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Karl Williams

A fictionalized version of the real-life Studio 54 story, this look back at the disco era is notable chiefly for a remarkable performance from Mike Myers as the ill-fated entrepreneur Steve Rubell. Unavoidable comparisons to the previous year's Boogie Nights (1997) sank any chances that debut writer-director Mark Christopher might have at critical and box-office success. Justifiably so: 54 (1998) simply doesn't come close to the feverish energy and sprawling narrative of its audacious competitor. Despite the film's "R" rating, the proceedings simply feel too toned down and soap-scrubbed a portrayal of the legendary bacchanalia that was Studio 54 in its heyday. The film's small-town boy-makes-good premise briefly sputters to life with a thematic flirtation with the uncertain sexuality of lead Shane O'Shea (Ryan Phillippe), but these promises of narrative energy never materialize into much. The cast of young actors is uniformly forgettable in its underwritten roles with only the elder Myers standing out, though notably so in a supporting turn that significantly beefs up the actor's resumé. Myers is the only memorable element in an otherwise flaccid picture, however. Trying as hard as it can to be another Saturday Night Fever (1977) or the aforementioned Boogie Nights, the best 54 can muster is a passing resemblance to a bell-bottomed Cocktail (1988).