Neil LaBute on mild still leaves a lot to be desired.
His latest, “Dirty Weekend,” dials back the playwright and filmmaker’s convenient misanthropy but still follows the blueprint of much of his work: two people, cagey interpersonal probing, sour echoes of Harold Pinter and David Mamet, a twisty secret and — LaBute wishes — your cool appreciation for the can of dark humanity he’s cracked open.
Here, Matthew Broderick in full shlub mode and a black-clad Alice Eve (who starred in LaBute’s “Some Velvet Morning”) are traveling work colleagues grounded in Albuquerque waiting for a new flight. Though they are not attracted to each other, sexual desire rears its head over what nervous family man Les and icy Brit Natalie eventually share about their private lives — in his case, a past, hazy work-trip indiscretion that Natalie teasingly assumes was homosexual.
As always with LaBute’s talkathons, dialogue is ever purposeful and oh-so-empty, less indicative of flesh-and-blood people than a dramatist’s deliberateness, though Eve and Broderick make the most of their dully comic exchanges. When LaBute sends his characters to a bar to play out Les’ erotic rekindling, it’s Broderick’s stuffy, halting comic timing that saves an otherwise simplistic reveal about one more confused middle-aged man. That Les isn’t one of LaBute’s garden variety sadists is the best thing you can say about “Dirty Weekend.”
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.