The word “Manodrome,” the title of a new film starring Jesse Eisenberg, is a riff on the “manosphere” — a catchall term for misogynist online communities including so-called incels and men’s rights activists. If your first instinct, like mine, is to snicker, know that this self-important drama is devoid of humor.
Directed by John Trengove, the film tracks the seduction of an unemployed worker turned Uber driver, Eisenberg’s Ralphie, by a group of women-hating men, which sets off a violent downward spiral that is, at the very least, not boring.
A gym rat, Ralphie pumps iron to make up for the fact that he doesn’t feel very manly. He’s broke, and he’s expecting a baby with his girlfriend Sal (Odessa Young), with whom he lives in a teeny-tiny apartment in Syracuse, N.Y.
Sal isn’t particularly excited about starting a family, but Ralphie seems to think fatherhood will save him — if only the system wasn’t working against him. In other words, he’s easy bait.
Ralphie’s workout pal Jason (Philip Ettinger) steps in, and introduces him to “the guys”: a diverse gang of bachelors who bunk together in a country mansion owned by the group’s leader and bankroller, Dan (Adrien Brody). They offer a sense of community and material perks, emboldening Ralphie to act out against Sal and unleash his inner alpha.
Eisenberg — beefed up in this role and stripped of the cocky, motormouth bravado he’s known for — plays the edgy Ralphie like a ticking time bomb of pent-up feeling. Though the script, which relies heavily on pseudo-psychology, doesn’t leave room for much mystery. Ralphie is self-loathing, intensely homophobic, and was made fun of as a kid for being chubby — connect the dots and you’ll be able to anticipate half of the film’s twists (and there are surplus twists).
Crude and sensationalizing, “Manodrome” is like an amalgam of all the headlines you’ve read about the kinds of men who succumb to warped ideologies.
Rated R for sex, domestic abuse, gun violence and cultlike activity. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. In theaters.