Third Man Out (2005) — A can of mysterious worms

“Excuse me, while I out my dog for the good of us all.”

Lissa’s rating: That’s not Albany. Where’s the Egg?

Lissa’s review: One of the missions of Mutant Reviewers is to bring those obscure, how-the-heck-did-you-find-that, I’ve-never-even-HEARD-of-it movies to light. The thing is, this can get exhausting, because so often those movies are obscure for a reason. And as much fun as a bad movie can be, sifting through the dust to find the diamonds can get old. Personally, I haven’t found a good one in ages, so I’ve forgotten how exciting it is to find a movie that no one’s ever heard of that you really enjoyed and then run out and tell everyone about it.

The movie is Third Man Out. It’s a Canadian TV movie based on the Richard Stevenson novel of the same name. It’s not my normal genre in that it’s a detective movie (of course, I couldn’t discover this one before Noir Week), but for some reason (aka Sebastian Spence), I watched it anyway.

Donald Strachey (played by Chris Allen) is a private detective living in Albany, New York with his partner Timmy (the aforementioned Spence). The fact that he’s gay – and the only gay PI in Albany, according to the movie – often gets him onto cases involving the gay community. In this case, he’s hired by John Rutka (Jack Wetherall), a journalist who runs a website forcibly outing gay men in positions of power. Donald despises his client and what he does for a living, but he needs the money and so he takes the case. What follows is a fairly entertaining, occasionally convoluted mystery where I didn’t guess the culprit until 5-10 minutes before they revealed it. And even though I’d guessed another aspect of the ending, when it happened, it still surprised me. Good stuff.

Although I’ve never been into mysteries, I’ve never been opposed to their existence. I just usually find them forgettable. This one I didn’t, largely thanks to the character of Donald Strachey and Chris Allen’s portrayal of him. Despite the fact this is a made-for-TV movie, they managed to get some real talent in Allen, and I really, really enjoyed his performance. Donald is flip, a little irreverent, a little bit of a jerk but in an endearing sort of way, self-aware, and has a very intriguing past which is explored more in the next movie, Shock to the System, which I fully intend on watching as soon as I can.

The other huge attraction for me was the relationship between Donald and Timmy. It is so, so rare in movies to find a couple – and I mean this about heterosexual couples, too – that go through a movie happy and supportive of each other. It wasn’t that they didn’t fight, because they did have a couple, normal-couple like arguments (Timmy really doesn’t like Donald taking the case, and then later their positions reverse). But usually when the couple are happy in a non-romance, one side of the couple gets shoved off to the side. In this case, I wouldn’t say that Timmy was an equal presence to Donald, but I would say that he deserved the second billing that he got. But more than that, watching these two… you could see why they considered themselves married (the legality of the situation is never addressed). They actually enjoy being with each other, they joke, they flirt, they bicker, and they understand each other. They were absolutely charming as a couple. And I very much enjoyed Sebastian Spence’s performance, although he kept reminding me of someone as I watched it. (I finally figured out that it was Sam Seaborn from West Wing.)

The big thing, however, about Third Man Out was that it got so, so freaking preachy at times. Oh wow. Not from Donald and Timmy, but from the character of John Rutka and the people associated with him. In certain ways, it made sense given that Rutka was meant to be a gay rights activist. It fit the character that he got preachy and passionate about his views. But for the most part, a lot of the movie was a bit light-hearted, and when you hit these scenes it was suddenly all anger and passion, and that made the preachy aspect stand out all the more.

Plus, I thought they were trying to cram in as many issues as they could. I know that there are a lot of issues that the gay community faces and that people may or may not know about, but we don’t need to put every last one of them into the same movie. At times I felt like a cat watching a ping pong ball being tossed around the room, because they’d zip from issue to issue. Rutka annoyed me to no end, and I could very much see why Donald and Timmy just didn’t like him. I didn’t either. However, I hear that Shock to the System is much better about this, so I really look forward to watching that one.

The low production values also show, and of course, there are obvious spots for commercial breaks. The one thing that highly amused me about Chad Allen was that every now and then his Canadian accent would slip through. I don’t know if I would have been so amused, except I’m from the Albany area, and our accents are most definitely not Canadian. (By the way? That wasn’t Albany. Not just that it was filmed in Canada, but it wasn’t Albany. Although I imagine a non-Albany person would buy that it was just fine. It was weird how I didn’t.) Some of the acting definitely reflected the made-for-TV movie nature of this, although I found that was more in supporting parts.

Overall, though, I really, really enjoyed Third Man Out, and I’m glad to finally have a chance to review a movie I’d never really heard of, but can honestly recommend.


  • Seriously, now that the Sam Seaborn similarities have entered my head, they just don’t go away.
  • The Egg? Where’s the Egg? Seriously, I’m really stuck on the Albany thing here.
  • Also? Definitely not Albany med. I’ve spent enough time in there to know. Although I suppose there are other hospitals in Albany.
  • My little BSG actors game comes up with at least two- Sebastian Spence played the Pegasus Viper pilot Narcho, and Colin Lawrence (aka the very hot fireman) was Skulls.
  • The Pyscho reference at the car lot.

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