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THE BACK ROW: When Straight Flicks Turn Gay

Using his tried-and-true formula of milking discomfort for laughs, funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen unleashes his latest comic creation, Bruno, on American audiences this week. Disguised as an aggressive, flamboyantly gay Austrian television personality, the creator of Borat and Ali G confronts people of various ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, with predictably hilarious results. Folks' sexual hangups are ample fodder for good comedy, especially in the hands of a master manipulator like Cohen.

The approach is considerably less effective, however, in the more traditionally macho genres of sci-fi and action. Testosterone is a tricky, volatile substance, and when an overzealous director goes overboard with the stuff, subtext turns to text, latent becomes blatant, and viewers are unwittingly served a big ol' heaping cup o' male homoeroticism. Here are some examples of what happens when straight flicks go gay:

The Transporter — Oiled Up!

Shirtless hitman Jason Statham lathers himself with motor oil in preparation for a stand-off with a group of burly henchmen, because if he intends to take on all of those big boys at once, he'll need plenty of lubricant.

Rocky III — Frolicking on the Beach

Trainer Apollo Creed helps Rocky prepare for his rematch with bruising brawler Clubber Lang by taking him on a sun-drenched beach romp which culminates in a passionate embrace amidst the frothy surf. If you can think of a better way to train a boxer, I'd like to see it.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine — Mutant Man-Meat

Theater owners were reportedly flooded with noise complaints during screenings of this comic-book hit — not because of cell phones, but rather the countless gaydars ringing loudly throughout. The film reaches its homoerotic zenith during a shirtless battle between Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds.

300 — When Leonidas Met Xerxes

Some critics felt that this sword-and-sandals epic unfairly portrayed the Persian King Xerxes as the effeminate, androgynous antagonist to the heroic, manly Leonidas. But as the attached scene attests, Xerxes clearly intends for Leonidas to be the bottom. So what's the problem?

The Lost Boys — Sweaty Saxman

New kid in town Michael (Jason Patric) heads to a bacchanalian beach party, where the sweet sounds and pulsating pelvis of a sweaty, musclebound saxophone player cause him to ponder a major lifestyle change.

Batman & Robin — All of It

Director Joel Schumacher (who, incidentally, also made The Lost Boys) famously filled this franchise-killer with enough camp to make John Waters blush.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — The Promise

Sam (Sean Astin) affirms his lifelong commitment to Frodo (Elijah Wood) in a private ceremony as the hobbit companions enjoy a tender moment alone on a boat. With a love like this, who needs a ring?

Top Gun — Playing With the Boys

Tom Cruise's breakout film was also a boon to the U.S. armed forces' recruiting efforts. After Top Gun debuted in 1986, the nation's military academies were flooded with new applicants, most of whom were presumably unaware of the whole "don't ask, don't tell" thing.

LAST WEEK'S BACK ROW: Five Reasons We'll Never See a Michael Jackson Biopic