In the erotic psychological thriller, “Steel,” hotshot TV interviewer Daniel (Chad Connell) battles crippling anxiety with the help of Alexander (David Cameron) a sexy 18-year-old. The film, which had its U.S. premiere at the Miami and Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival earlier this month, is a typical low-budget, gay B-movie, in that it features gorgeous guys and gratuitous nudity.
Daniel tries to suppress his emotional demons, but when he goes out for a jog, or out to a nightclub becomes wracked with fear, and heads to his car to calm his nerves. The experience is as if he has claustrophobia in a large public space. When he is doing an important interview on live TV, Daniel has an attack and walks off the set. He returns to his apartment—a safe space he practically refuses to leave. Obviously, there is something eating away at Daniel, but he is so private about his life—he doesn’t even admit he is gay—that it will take someone special to uncover all of his secrets.
That someone arrives in the form of Alexander, a teen who flirts with Daniel at a club. Unknown to Daniel, Alexander follows him home one night and proceeds to infiltrate his life. He arrives unexpectedly to cook, have sex, and take showers. He also tries to coax Daniel to talk about his parents (he won’t) or take a walk outside (he reluctantly agrees).
“Steel” plays up the romance between these characters, with softcore bedroom scenes as well as episodes of the guys getting ice cream or swimming in a nearby lake. The film is best when the characters are doing not speaking, in part because the dialogue is pretty lame at times, and the guys are so damn handsome. Unfortunately, Vincent Ho music in the panic or sex scenes is entirely too overemphatic.
When Alexander encourages Daniel to confront his past, visiting the farm where he grew up, “Steel” gets down to its psychological as well as narrative depths. The trauma is predictable, and the “closure” Daniel seeks is kind of dull. But the film does feature a twist that, while not unsurprising, is a rather satisfying.
If the material is uneven, the charismatic Chad Connell is absolutely magnetic. He exudes sex appeal and makes Daniel’s despair palpable—especially when the story goes heavy on the melodrama. As Alexander, Cameron is certainly attractive, but he seems to be intent on impersonating Brent Corrigan here.
“Steel” may be flawed, but it has its guilty pleasures.