In the Company of Men

Neil LaBute's film opens in a gents toilets, and goes on to handle the malodorous reaches of the male psyche with such vicious perceptiveness that you expect the end credits to read: "Now Wash Your Hands".

The movie centres on white-collar marketing men Chad and Howie. Insecure in their jobs and dumped by their girlfriends, these overgrown frat-boys decide to seduce and then dump a vulnerable temp (a deaf one, to boot). This sadistic prank is designed to refresh their confidence, but misogynistic male bonding is soon superseded by their own psychological warfare.

As he charts this process, LaBute expertly sustains a mood of suppressed violence and malevolent comedy, then lobs in a shock ending to blow apart his tightly schematic concept. has echoes of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross; like Mamet, LaBute anatomises modern-day masculinity through language, depicting the "civilised" office as a thinly disguised battlefield.

Designed with the deliberate air of theatrical unreality, the anonymous officescape and indeterminate time of LaBute's film lend this drama an archetypal resonance. Stark, geometric compositions provide a properly austere frame for a chilling portrait of personal passion colonised by the inhumane competitiveness of the corporate mindset.

Screens tonight, Cameo 1 (0131-228 4141)

Chasing Amy

This is the third in Kevin (Clerks) Smith's New Jersey trilogy, and a return to low-budget form after the disastrous Mallrats. Following the lives of a group of hip young cartoonists, the film's zippy pace and episodic style reflect their comic-strip work. As one would expect from a director famous for selling off his comic-book collection to raise the money to make Clerks, Smith has created a bunch of plausibly freaky suburban super- heroes, from Hooper, the gay artist who uses Black Power as a marketing stunt, to Smith himself as brooding "Bluntman" Silent Bob. At the quirky heart of the film, however, lies the uncomfortable triangle made by homophobic Banky, his childhood friend Holden, and Holden's lesbian love-interest Alyssa.

For those frustrated by the muggy soundtrack of Clerks, Chasing Amy will come as a treat, its witty dialogue pinballing between characters or directed straight to camera in hip monologues which treat homophobia, promiscuity and lesbian chic with a smart-arsed but trenchant irreverence.

Screens Friday, Cameo 3

Liese Spencer

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