The central character of 54 is Shane O'Shea (Ryan Phillippe), a young man who sees the exotic world of Studio 54 as his escape from his pathetic life in New Jersey. Catching the eye of the Studio 54 owner, Steve Rubell (Mike Myers), Shane soon finds himself with a job as a busboy. Night after night, he is able to catch glimpses of the rich and famous, including his dreamgirl, soap star Julie Black (Neve Campbell).
Shane quickly strikes up a friendship with some other club employees, a married couple Anita and Greg (Salma Hayek and Breckin Meyer). Anita is only a hatcheck girl, but she dreams of being a disco diva, if only she could get a break. Greg is a busboy, with his eye on the best job at Studio 54: being a bartender, where you're a mini-celbrity and the money, drugs and sex just keep rolling in.
Money, drugs and sex are the lifeblood of Studio 54 (the disco's most prominent piece of decor is cocaine-related). So much of flows throughout the film that you just know there's going to be a big denouement. And when it comes, the moral message is awfully heavy handed. The entire climax of the film ends up being awkward and unconvincing.
But at least the film delivers a message there, which is more than can be said about the remainder of the film's half-dozen subplots. They're simply tossed into the film with no thought (or screen time) given to any semblance of resolution. A few of the luckier subplots are tidied up with a quick gloss-over narration, but in any case it's sloppy filmmmaking.
Ryan Phillippe is rather unremarkable as the film's centerpiece. Of the entire cast, only Mike Myers truly stands out. And that is mostly due to the fact that he displays a heretofore unknown range of talent with a dramatic role.
For all its glitz, 54 paints the 70s as a rather boring era. Billed as the party that never ends, in 54 it seems more like the party you just can't wait to leave. At least the soundtrack is interesting.