There have been many films made about the moment when one decides to come out, but few have dared to explore what happens when lifelong bros learn one of their closest friends is gay. That is the basic premise of 4th Man Out, and though the story often falls victim to genre tropes there is plenty of heart and comedy to be found in this brisk, small-budget affair.
Adam (Evan Todd) has decided he cannot live another year letting his friends and family believe him to be a straight. He’s known for at least a decade that he was different than his closest friends, but fear of rejection has kept his lips sealed. A wild night of partying in celebration of his 24th birthday leaves Adam to break the news to his closest friend, Chris (Parker Young), the following morning, and before long Adam is telling everyone the truth about his sexual preferences. Some embrace him with open arms and understanding, but others, including his closest friends, are not quite sure how to respond.
Upon realizing how vulnerable his best friend may feel in light of coming out, Nick devises a plan to help everyone acclimate to Adam’s sexuality by helping him find a man all his own. This leads the friends down several paths of self-discovery, some more entertaining than others, as well as overused genre territory such as gay clubs and dating apps. A small town setting helps keep each sequence unique despite their often-familiar setups, but only just enough to keep you engaged. To say there is anything awaiting you in this film that you haven’t seen before would be a lie.
That said, a terrific ensemble cast and strong screenplay makes 4th Man Out something that is very hard to deny. First-time writer Aaron Dancik wonderfully captures the spirit of male camaraderie and all the filth it usually entails without being gratuitous or over the top. The characters in his script feel real and established, as if the story is only scratching the surface of a fictional universe that is fully alive, and when things end you wonder where the lives of the leads will go next. This, coupled with incredibly intoxicating chemistry shared by the cast, makes the film far more visceral than your usual coming-out fare. You relate to the characters, as well as the sometimes awkward conversations that arise in light of Adam’s big reveal, and as a result you take a vested interest in the fate of everyone on screen. You assume they will live happily ever after, but you never real no for sure until the end.
Director Andrew Nackman, who is also a newcomer to the world of feature-length films, captures 4th Man Out with skill well beyond his years. The film was unquestionably made without the financing of most big-picture endeavors, but a keen eye for capturing human emotion at its rawest point allows Nackman to find the magic in every scene. More importantly, Nackman understands how to shoot and balance the key emotional moments with more lighthearted subject matter, and the juxtaposition between the two is never all that rough thanks to great editing from Michael P. Shawver (who also cut Creed).
Whether you’re looking for a few good laughs or an emotional ride along with four best friends, 4th Man Out is one of the first must-see films of 2016. It has all the makings of a big studio dramedy without the schmaltz that tends to ruin such features, and it highlights a cast of young talent that will no doubt be in high demand within one or two years time. I lost count of how often I laughed at loud at this film, but I will never forget how the narrative managed to repeatedly pull on my heartstrings. There is something very special about this film, and though I doubt it will ever receive the mass exposure it deserves it will no doubt continue winning over viewers as long as it’s available to stream online.