›› Shock to the System
a film by Ron Oliver.
2006 | 88 mins | Canada.
principal players: Chad Allen / Donald Strachey, Sebastian Spence / Timmy Callahan, Michael Woods / Dr Trevor Cornell, Morgan Fairchild / Phyllis Hale, Anne Marie DeLuise / Lynne Cornell, Dany Papineau / Lieutenant Kyle Griffin, Rikki Gagne / Katey Simmons, Stephen Huszar / Grey, Ryan Kennedy / Walter, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman / Levon, Shawn Roberts / Larry Phelps, Jared Keeso / Paul Hale and with series recurring characters Nelson Wong as Kenny Kwon and Daryl Shuttleworth as Detective "Bub" Bailey.
Official Synopsis: "When hard boiled private eye Donald Strachey finds his latest client dead, an apparent suicide, Strachey smells a rat and decides to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his adoring husband Timmy and his all too eager assistant Kenny, Strachey's investigation leads him into the world of gay conversion therapy, with deadly consequences."
Based on the book by Richard Stevenson, this, the second in the series of four Donald Strachey film adaptations that began with Third Man Out, sets its stage within the controversial world of conversion therapy. No surprise then to find that our man is soon to go undercover, determined to get ever closer to the truth behind the caring façade of The Phoenix Foundation for a Better Life. Yet of the truths revealed, the most character defining is a moving explanation as to Strachey's military discharge, hinted at previously, but laid bare here courtesy of a number of flashback sequences that see Strachey encounter the manly charms of Dany Papineau as Lieutenant Kyle Griffin; namely the soldier who turned out to be his first love. That their relationship ended the way no relationship should, makes for a story within a story, one ever so poignantly told.
As to the main act, well and as sure as night follows day, twists, turns and red herrings are aplenty, with full frontal nudity equally on hand for the boys, laced between Ron Oliver's ever solid production values. Yet central to the story is the contentious issue of conversion therapy. Thankfully this is a film that goes against the grain of caricature, opting to depict Dr Trevor Cornell, cue Michael Woods in the role, as a man simply committed to a misguided cause. Taking advantage of the subject under discussion however, the narrative takes time out to ponder on what it means to be gay and what your life could have been had one walked the straight path. No chance of Strachey taking any other route than the rainbow coloured lane though, given a script that has him proudly proclaim - "I just loved him and it didn't seem right to lie about that."
Men with opposing views on being gay in Shock to the System.
Production wise, Morgan Fairchild's character is the polar opposite of her gay boy loving turn in JC Calciano's ode to romance that is eCupid, cast here as the "my son was not gay" homophobic mother of the piece, whilst conversely Nelson Wong as series recurring character Kenny Kwon is a pure delight as Strachey's proud to be gay - PA, or should that be "Office Manager," adding some neat comic touches in the process. That Strachey is certain to solve the whodunit styled case, goes without saying, along the way staying true to his man Timmy, their scenes together being undoubtedly part of the joyous charm of the series. Yet this is Allen's show and as America's favourite gay private eye, he's on vibrant form throughout, in a film in which the message of "to thy own self, be true" comes through loud and clear.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - the full monty.
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars.