Mike (Jon Favreau) is feeling dejected, and has been for six months since his girlfriend broke up with him. An aspiring comedian, he has moved out to Los Angeles from New York, leaving her behind physically, but not mentally as he pines for any word from her, a telephone call, anything. Mike's friends want to pull him out of his gloom, and upbeat, fast talking Trent (Vince Vaughn) tonight persuades him to travel out to Las Vegas with him for some gambling and womanising. All right, it takes them a very long time to drive there, but Trent is undeterred and they head over to the nearest casino. All right, it seems mainly populated by people about thirty years older than them, but hey, the night is young...
At the time Swingers was released, the most famous person associated with it was Heather Graham, and she only turns up for ten minutes near the end. But soon it was clear the film had introduced a new star into Hollywood's firmament: Vince Vaughn, who has traded on his wisecracking, slang-spouting persona honed to perfection here ever since (even in the Psycho remake, you half expected his Norman Bates to start with the wacky, smooth banter). The script in this case was by future director Favreau, a knowing combination of guys who we know are losers, but like for their aspirations anyway.
This is spelt out early on at the casino, where even at such a less-than-glamorous location it's clear Mike and Trent are out of their league, starting on too high stakes and ending up making five dollar bets at a lesser table. Therein lies the humour, and instead of leaving with moneyed young ladies, they end up heading back to a trailer park at six o'clock in the morning with a waitress and a Dorothy form a Wizard of Oz-themed event. Nice girls, but not quite what they had in their mind for a night out in Vegas and the disparity betwen the ambition and the reality is what the film continually returns to.
And also, Mike is such a wet blanket that he sucks all the goodnatured atmosphere out of any situation; he's supposed to be a comedian but his oneliners just die mere moments after they're spoken. He even uses the ultra-lame "I guess we're not in Kansas anymore" with the Dorothy, to embarrassed silence. But Trent and Mike's circle of friends know that they can improve his life through their rules of dating, rules that apparently do them very little good. In fact, they're more at home, erm, at home, playing their computer games and ordering in takeaways.
It's a curious thing to put such a depressed (and depressing) character at the centre of the comedy, but Favreau manages some painfully funny episodes, the highlight of which is when he gets the number of an attractive woman in a bar then eschews one of the rules to leave calling her for at least two days and dives straight in. He gets her answering machine, and leaves about seven messages in a row, each more desperate than the last until she eventually phones him and orders him never to call again. Swingers may be too self-conscious at times, recreating scenes from Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas with a sly wink (how nineties can you get?), and its parlance is too cute to be believable, but the hopelessness of these would-be actors and performers and their state of denial is oddly endearing after while. Even Mike becomes likeable by the end. Music by Justin Reinhardt, among some aptly swinging oldies to reflect the "lounge" scene of the day.
Pacy American director and producer, who after his humorous thriller debut Getting In, achieved cult success with comedies Swingers and Go. He then moved onto bigger budget projects with action premises with The Bourne Identity, Mr and Mrs Smith, Jumper and Edge of Tomorrow, then lower budget war flick The Wall.