Combustible Celluloid Review - Manodrome (2023), John Trengove, John Trengove, Jesse Eisenberg, Adrien Brody, Odessa Young, Philip Ettinger, Sallieu Sesay, Ethan Suplee
Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
With: Jesse Eisenberg, Adrien Brody, Odessa Young, Philip Ettinger, Sallieu Sesay, Ethan Suplee
Written by: John Trengove
Directed by: John Trengove
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content, language, graphic nudity and some drug use
Running Time: 96
Date: 11/10/2023

Manodrome (2023)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Chain Male

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

An ambitious, unpleasant, and ultimately unsuccessful examination of toxic masculinity and cult mentality, this dark drama gets by for a long while on Jesse Eisenberg's aching, physical performance.

Ralphie (Eisenberg) is an Uber driver struggling to make ends meet with his pregnant girlfriend Sal (Odessa Young). Constantly short on money, and emotionally wounded from his fatherless childhood, he takes out his frustrations at the gym and numbs the pain with Percocet. A friend, Jason (Phil Ettinger), tells him about someone that could help him.

He meets Dan (Adrien Brody), a confident, calming fellow who runs a kind of men's group. As Ralphie becomes more and more involved the group, whose members are willingly celibate, he finds something unlocked inside him. Unfortunately, his newfound confidence turns to aggression, and then violence.

John Trengove's Manodrome is brave enough to tackle some of today's more pressing — and generally unexplored — issues. The casting of Eisenberg against his usual type (brainy and nerdy) is a canny choice, as is the childlike name of "Ralphie." We see him struggling with his masculinity (taking selfies at the gym, more to convince himself of something than to show off), his sexuality (he can't stop staring at the chiseled bodies in the locker room, and, in a rage over his own conflicted longings, even picks a fight with one alpha type), and his father issues, easily falling under Dan's spell (he insists on being called "Dad Dan").

But in its explorations, the movie dives into the rabbit hole without having a plan for getting back out. Ralphie's journey is an implosion, rather than a dissection. We see his ugliest impulses, but very little of how they came about, or any healthy ways of moving through them. Likewise, the lure of the cult is short-changed in an attempt to make it visual, i.e. Dan putting up his group of lost men in a giant production-designed mansion, rather than a squirrelly corner of the Dark Web, where these things are more likely to occur. In other words, Manodrome goes deep without going wide; it's an emotional journey that leaves the intellect wanting.

Movies Unlimtied