Brought down by clichés
“Club Life” is a clichéd Brooklyn-boy-makes-good story that feels far more retro than its 2008 setting.
Inspired by the exploits of former New York City club promoter Danny A. Abeckaser, who acts here and cowrote the clunky script with Ryan O’Nan and Ryan Vallan, the film is undermined by choppy editing and a penchant for hoary aphorisms and forced gravitas.
Jerry Ferrara (“Entourage”) is warm and nimble, however, as Abeckaser proxy Johnny D, a limo driver whose father has just suffered a devastating stroke. His working-class family has no health insurance, so it falls on Johnny to find a way to pay his dad’s mounting hospital bill. It’s a complex issue that goes ridiculously under-discussed among Johnny, his hand-wringing mother (a strident Tovah Feldshuh) and weepy sister (Anne Gibbons-Brown).
Enter Mark (Abeckaser), a thriving if sketchy nightclub promoter who introduces Johnny to the lucrative business of “bottles for models.” That is, rounding up hot women to entertain a club’s big-spender patrons and thus create buzz. The sexual component, if there is one, seems kept on the QT.
Johnny proves a natural at the job. He’s soon raking in
the bucks and becoming a fixture on the club scene. Meanwhile, his longtime girlfriend (Jessica Szohr, quite good), angered by his babe-heavy new career, disappears for a huge chunk of the film. And what happened to the family limo business?
The movie unabashedly traffics in character types — the earnest guy on the make, the scary club boss (Robert Davi), the privileged scion (O’Nan), the vacuous model, the effete model-agency owner, the arrogant fat cat — without adding anything new. Direction by Fabrizio Conte is, to be charitable, undistinguished.