Here’s a game you don’t want to play.
Bobbing on a yacht in the Aegean Sea, six Greek guys invent a tournament called Chevalier, a competition to determine who is the best all-around man. As they’re just a short boat trip away from the birthplace of the Olympics, consider it the Decathlon of Dude Bros, with points awarded for stone skipping, Rubik’s Cube solving, silver polishing, cholesterol scores, hairlines, pants height, and, of course, morning erections. Writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari has a superspy’s sense of how silly men get when no one is looking. Alone in their rooms, her contestants nervously fiddle with their man buns and fret about their potbellies, yet in front of each other, they swell up with phony pride. At dinner, they suffer the windy deck and take turns swearing they aren’t cold.
Of course, they are — and so, too, is the film, which desaturates the gorgeous Greek vistas to a shivery grey and studies its macho subjects with a clinical detachment. They’re all rats aboard a sinking ship — after all, no man (nor his boner) can stay mighty forever. But we’re allowed to giggle when the dudes get into a bitter fight over which fruit each resembles (kiwi? pineapple?) and begin rating each other’s cell phone ringtones.
Under the surface of this choppy sea, Tsangari asks us to decide what a man really is. Five of the rivals agree it’s a testosterone-hardened superhero, but pay attention to the sixth, a chubby failure who spends the movie quietly throwing the game. Since he doesn’t stand a chance, he embarrasses himself in order to give others extra glory. His fellow Dude Bros don’t notice. We do. And slowly we realize that the true measure of a man isn’t whether he wins — it’s how he loses.