Chevalier (2016; Athina Rachel Tsangari)
By Daniel Barnes
Chevalier opens with long shots of figures struggling through the surf, oily blobs lurching from the ocean onto the beach like primordial creatures. Back on their Greek luxury liner, they shed their wet suits to reveal those most savagely insecure of primordial creatures: affluent white men. Obsessed with exercise and self-evaluation, driven by competition and dominance, the barely distinguishable men devise an ultimate test of male-ness one night during a blackout. Called “The Best in General,” the game has participants devise contests for each other to evaluate critical aspects of appearance, skill and virility, then has them score each other in secret.
It’s an excellent foundation for a chemical peel satire of gaseous masculinity, but writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari never builds upon it, and almost every scene is long and shapeless. There’s barely enough meat on these bones for a short film, much less a feature, and most of the movie’s insights on male competitiveness feel obvious and easy. Tsangari seems less interested in satire than in digressive dawdling. While she probably achieved exactly the sterile tone that she wanted, a lot of Chevalier plays like Kubrick on horse tranquilizers, empty and benumbed. God help me, but I was longing for a revved-up American remake starring Seth Rogen and Ed Helms by the end of this thing.