Synopsis: Rub & Tug is an amusing portrayal of a fascinating subculture. Lawrence, the owner of a “full body” massage parlour, suspects that the three girls who work for him are secretly performing sex with customers. To catch them in the act, he hires Conrad as the parlour’s unlikely manager. Conrad meets the three girls for the first time: Betty, the vivacious veteran of the full body massage game, Cindy, the adorable immigrant who always manages to get into trouble, and Lea, the beautiful but insecure massage girl with a nipple fetish. These street-smart girls welcome the opportunity to manipulate the naive manager. A battle wages as Conrad fights for control of the parlour.
Rub and Tug 5.25
eyelights: its setting. its potential.
eyesores: its contrived and unbelievable ending. its lack of clear plot.
“Think you can handle them?”
‘Rub and Tug’ is a 2002 Canadian sex comedy set in a small Toronto massage parlour. Starring Don McKellar, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Lindy Booth and Kira Clavell, it follows the misadventures of Conrad, the shop’s new manager, as he learns the ropes and attempts to keep his three masseuses in line.
Seriously, when I first picked up this DVD (it’s a screener copy that I’ve had since my video store days – so, well over a dozen years!), I had no idea what a “rub and tug” was. In fact, I hadn’t even heard the expression until these last few years – although I had heard of the practice, for some reason.
Had I known, I probably would have watched it much sooner.
Ahem… not that I’ve missed much.
‘Rub and Tug’ is basically an episodic 90 minutes that mostly shows the girls at work, how they interact with various clients, and how Conrad tries to prevent them from giving anything more than a handjob to their clients – because, let’s be clear, there’s a lot more money to be made with a little extra.
And the girls are obviously doing it for the money.
- Betty has aspirations of making a fortune and retiring; with the help of a client, she has placed a lot of money on the stock market and is hoping for it pay big dividends. She’s the business-savvy one of the group.
- Lea is less focused on money, but she leads a comfortable life that hides the fact that she is a masseuse by day. In fact, her boyfriend has absolutely no idea that she isn’t working for a charity organization, as she claims.
- Cindy is the one who needs the money the most. An illegal immigrant, she is her family’s sole breadwinner and she hopes to bring them to Canada someday. She also needs the money to pay someone to marry her.
Someone like Conrad.
- Conrad is your average geek, right out of university, with a debt and no job in sight – hence the job as manager of the rub and tug. At first he’s taken aback by his boss’s insistence that he monitor all of the girls’ activities, feeling that it’s intrusive, but he soon discovers that they have wily ways.
In fact, he soon finds a used condom wrapper under one of the massage tables. And when the boss puts in peepholes for him to spy on the girls, they quickly learn to put chewing gum on the eyelet. And so begins the challenge of finding out who’s been breaking the rules – before the cops bust and arrest them.
Frankly, I didn’t find the film all that amusing. It had potential, but it wasn’t zany enough and the characters aren’t compelling enough for us to care. While we do get to delve into their personal lives to a minor degree, most of the time is spent watching them interact at the parlour. It’s not enough.
There is the marriage subplot, which finds the group going to City Hall to wed Conrad and Cindy and then crashing someone else’s wedding party. That scene was mildly fun because it showed them taking pictures with the guests there (with curious effects of freeze-framing the foreground, but not the background).
But, otherwise, the picture tends to go nowhere.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Ultimately, the picture has the requisite melodramatic ending, which finds Conrad double-crossing Cindy by stealing her money, getting her caught by immigration, annulling the marriage, and then buying the joint from the owner – who’s been under severe stress, worried that the law was on his tail.
Naturally, Betty has a plan to counter his betrayal: she calls the police and she and Lea tell the authorities that they’d been forced by Conrad to perform sex on their clients, had been drugged and tied to their massage tables for days on end. Meanwhile, Cindy’s immigration officer allows her to escape.
Cut to a scene in which the girls are having a party, having taken over the business and making a killing.
Hurray for Hollywood endings!
WTF!!! Firstly, the cops would surely have found no signs of the girls having been mistreated. At all. And then Conrad would have been released after a brief interrogation. The girls would then likely be sued for defamation.
Secondly, there’s no way the immigration officer would be so stupid as to risk his job for Cindy; there’s absolutely no way that he can avoid suspension here. Anyway, Cindy would be found hiding at the massage parlour and sent home.
Frankly, I felt that the movie was passable up until that point. I mean, I’d have given it a 6.5-6.75. But I hated this bullcrap, cop-out, lazy @$$ ending so much that there’s simply no way that I can give it a higher mark.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Ultimately, ‘Rub and Tug’ is a good idea gone sour: it’s not especially funny or entertaining to start with, and then it goes off the deep end as it wears on. You’d want to think that a little T&A might offset it, but there’s nary any to speak of aside for one brief scene. So even we pervs don’t get a happy ending.
Date of viewing: May 21, 2016