The Velocity of Gary (April 4/04)
Somewhere in the midst of all the flashiness and questionable stylistic choices in The Velocity of Gary lies an intriguing character study, snippets of which can be glimpsed throughout the film's running time. Director Dan Ireland often seems more interested in detailing the bizarre side of New York City's gay subculture, which might have worked in a different film but seems wholly out of place here. It doesn't help that the story revolves around three phenomenally talented actors - Thomas Jane, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Salma Hayek - that are, more often than not, completely wasted.
Jane stars as Gary, while D'Onofrio plays Valentino - a hustler and porn star, respectively. The two are engaged in some kind of relationship, though it's far from exclusive; Valentino's also seeing Mary (Hayek), a fiery waitress with a curious inability to respect her customers. This love triangle is all well and good, until Valentino is stricken with an unnamed disease (although it doesn't take a genius to figure out it's AIDS).
It's a premise that certainly holds the potential for an honest examination of how AIDS affects both its victims and their friends, but Ireland (along with screenwriter James Still) instead fills the screen with garishness - in an effort, one suspects, to shock viewers that aren't familiar with this sort of lifestyle. This means we're treated to sequences in which transvestites parade around in bizarre outfits and interminable jaunts to loud clubs, with quieter moments of Valentino dealing with the disease few and far between.
Having said that, Ireland's clearly not an untalented director - he occasionally manages to inject some life into the film using odd camera tricks - but he's quite obviously the wrong choice for this material. Ireland's approach would be more suited for something like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, an over-the-top look at the gay underworld. The actors try their best to keep up with all the hijinks, but despite their best efforts, none of them are able to create characters worth caring about.
The Velocity of Gary is a curiosity, one that will probably live on thanks to the presence of so many familiar faces (the film features cameo appearances from the likes of Ethan Hawke and Olivia d'Abo). But really, this is a perfect example of a wasted opportunity - though there are moments here and there in which some actual emotion manages to seep through all the gaudiness.