September 13, 2022

Toronto Film Festival Reviews: “Bros” & “Butcher’s Crossing”


BROS (Universal – Sept. 30):  Notwithstanding its occasional meta self-deprecation, it’s clear that Nicholas Stoller and Billy Eichner (both writer/producers and respectively director and star) want Bros to be Hollywood’s first mainstream big-screen gay rom-com hit.  It’s fitting in a way, then, that like so many straight rom-coms before it, Bros suffers from third act problems and an only moderate amount of cinematic chemistry between its stars.  Eichner plays Bobby, a podcaster who sits on the board of an emerging LGBTQ+ history museum, and whose grumpy assertions that he’s perfectly happy with his own company (interrupted by regular bouts of anonymous sex) barely masks his longing for a real relationship.  The guy who’s all wrong for him and totally right is Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), who Bobby initially dismisses as a bore with male-model looks, but who has inner depths.  Aside from a copious amount of sex for the leads (usually reserved for the sidekicks in rom-coms), Bros follows the basic form, as Bobby and Aaron’s romance kicks off hot, then gets deeper, then falls apart, but (spoiler alert) not really.  Bros is at its best when the spotlight is on Eichner’s comic persona, as he rolls his eyes at the other passionately compartmentalized board members of the museum, and delivers his cranky views on pop culture.  As much as the movie wants to convince us that Bobby and Aaron are soulmates, though, the actors never display the kind of rhythm that make rom-com teams shine.  And when Bros turns sincere, it loses its comic touch.  The existence of a merely OK gay rom-com may actually be of more historical importance than a truly exceptional one would have been; Bros feels routine, a comfortable subgenre that studios can now replicate like any other.

BUTCHER’S CROSSING (no distrib):  If there’s one fairly clear rule in movie narrative, it’s that venturing into the wilderness on an expedition led by Nicolas Cage just isn’t going to end well.  Butcher’s Crossing, adapted by director Gabe Polsky and Liam Satre-Maloy from a novel by John Williams (not that one), provides an object lesson on that score.  When naive, rich Harvard dropout Will (Fred Hechinger) arrives in the titular Kansas town, eager for adventure, Cage’s Miller is more than happy to take his funding to finance an expedition to a valley where the buffalo literally roam.  The small group sets out with the promise that they’ll be in and out in a few weeks and return rich.  Naturally things don’t work out that way, and before long the group is marooned, Miller is going full-on Colonel Kurtz, and bodies are falling.  Cage has nothing to play in Butcher’s Crossing but brooding intensity, and while he delivers that well enough, the lack of any real plot surprises or acting challenges from the rest of the cast makes for a dull if handsome (the photography is by David Gallego) trek to the frontier.  Polsky no doubt meant the story’s tag focusing on the fate of the American buffalo to be serious and sincere, but as presented here it feels clumsy and tacked-on, as though Apocalypse Now had ended with a public service message about the dangers of interfering in foreign wars.  Butcher’s Crossing is a destination best avoided.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."