Retired security guard Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) suffers a debilitating stroke when trying to halt a gang of thieves in the busy New York apartment block in which he lives. To improve his condition Koontz is persuaded to take singing lessons from Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a pre-op transexual neighbour. Initially warring enemies, (Koontz is homophobic and contemptuous of Rusty's lifestyle, Rusty himself is heterophobic), an understanding between the two gradually evolves which will end up saving both their lives when the thieves twig that Rusty has stashed what they are looking for.
Richly shot by Declan Quinn in the apartment blocks Joel Schumacher frequented as a child on New York's Lower East Side (it certainly feels like a personal project), "Flawless" exhibits gritty realism. The involvement of several real-life drag queens contributes to both the exhuberence, authenticity, and sheer panache to mark something of a return to form for the idiosyncratic director.
The narrative incongruities are just about excused by a couple of impressive central performances from method veterans De Niro (not back to his best but refreshingly low-key) and Hoffman, who brings warmth and perception to a difficult role. As an exposition of queer culture it's refreshingly honest and gently subversive; as mainstream entertainment it certainly makes a welcome change from the norm.