Mark Christopher’s 1998 film 54 felt like a watered-down version of Boogie Nights that met a future watered-down version of Party Monster. That’s not to say that it wasn’t still a fun ride. And who doesn’t enjoy a hippie Mark Ruffalo, even if his part in the film was rather small.
First, let’s get the female hormones out of the way and discuss how hot Breckin Meyer was in this film. I don’t know what I enjoyed more: his boyish face, his jet-black hair, or him constantly being semi-naked. It was easy to see why Salma Hayek’s character was so into him. I have never found him attractive before or since, so this was a refreshing change. He was easily the hottest guy in the film, and that’s taking into consideration how often Ryan Phillippe was shirtless.
Anywho, Mike Meyers did a remarkable job as Steve Rubell. You half expect him to break into a Scottish accent or pull out the ol’ reliable Wayne Campbell or Austin Powers to grab a quick laugh if he felt his performance was suffering, but he managed to not only stay in character for the longevity of the film but also successfully pulled off a creepy sleazebag who typically only hires hot young men if they’re willing to perform sexually for him. It made your skin crawl to see Meyers in this kind of role, which is probably the best compliment to its effectiveness.
One thing I found to be particularly sad upon reflection was that Meyer’s character, Greg, never does attain his dream of becoming a bartender at 54, since the night that it’s finally supposed to happen for him, the club gets raided and Rubell gets locked up for tax fraud.
And who can forget Ellen Albertini Dow, a character actress whom you almost certainly don’t recognize by name but couldn’t miss in a film. She plays “Disco Dottie” here (and won a Razzie for it), though she may be better known as the rapping grandmother from the Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer. She’s been in everything from Sister Act to Scrubs, to Will & Grace and Seinfeld. The old-ladies-being-crude shtick never does quite make me chuckle, but Dow manages to put such a sweet spin on her vulgarity that it’s hard not to, at the very least, like her.
It’s actually surprising how much credit Neve Campbell gets in this film. Her part as a star that Phillippe’s Shane is crushing on is rather forgettable. She doesn’t do much in this film, aside from lending her peak ‘90s popularity to it. Come to think of it, the same goes for the rest of the cast, though we see a lot less of Campbell than the film’s poster would lead you to believe.
All in, the film was not that great, so it’s understandable why it received so much negativity from the critics. A film titled 54 should be more about the club than the folks who work there and the drama that exists between them (save, of course, for Rubell), and I can agree that the audience probably would have benefited more from exploring the heart of 54 and what made it so exclusive, culminating in its eventual demise.
This film seemed, as I said, more like a vehicle for ‘90s stars than a true depiction of the club 54, which came off as nothing more special than any other “hard-to-get-into” club.