Sunday, December 30, 2012

ASYLUM (aka I Want To Be A Gangster) (DVD Review)

Directed By: Olivier Chateau
Written By: Olivier Chateau
Starring: Julien Courbey, Jean-Marie Lamour, Jacques Frantz
Color/82 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
ASYLUM opens in a warehouse type room, largely empty where a trio of men play games of Russian Roulette for money. The man running the game is Jack, a small time criminal aspiring to be like the gangsters from the movies he watched as a child. Fixing the games to go in his and his partner's favor and letting the loser walk away with both legs if he's lucky, Jack finds himself in a tough situation after a kingpin's drugs were put up for the stakes of the game and now he wants them back. Jack is given his chance to prove himself and fall in with the man who spared his life but Jack decides to go bigger and be badder.

For an aspiring gangster Jack has proven himself lucky and at least somewhat capable and now has his golden opportunity with the biggest crime ring in the area. Unfortunately for Jack he gets a little too far ahead of himself and the head honcho's nephew is killed in an accident while being watched over by Jack. As he tries to get out of town, Jack is tracked and eventually captured and tormented. Jack will pay for his deeds by being chained to a tree like a dog and left for dead. With only a few chance encounters with passersby Jack quickly begins to lose his grip on reality and his physical condition suffers from hunger and thirst until he can find a way to free himself.

ASYLUM aka I WANT TO BE A GANGSTER is the first feature film from French director Olivier Chateau and is a mixed bag. The film starts out strong as Jack climbs the ranks in the world of crime. The acting is quite strong (surprisingly so at times) throughout. Without a doubt this is the film's strongest point. It is around halfway through the film when Jack is chained to the tree that the film hits a bit of a snag and drags on. Jack has an assault rifle in his hands for a good chunk of the film and never once shoots it at the chains to try and free himself. There is a reason shown for his rationalizing but it really becomes a thin thread holding that plot point together as Jack gets hungrier, thirstier and more delusional. If you have a means to free yourself, even with a half decent chance of it working, after 3 weeks of being captive you're going to take that chance. The movie is a very mixed bag for me. Good acting from the ensemble has to deal with hit and miss writing and crappy digital photography.

The Video
I'm almost positive the minuscule budget, which was less than $10,000, plays a large role in the sub-par look of this film. The digital photography is cheap, muddy and just not pleasing to look at in certain parts of the movie. The film has a sepia-like tone through most of the duration in which objects sometimes become muddled together. Synapse Films doesn't have a whole lot of good things to work with on the picture quality side of this thing but they do bring it to us with an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) presentation and undoubtedly did the best they could. Again, this is more of an issue with the budget the filmmakers had to work with and not an authoring or transfer problem.

The Audio
The sound quality on the other hand is pretty nice. Free of any distractions or crackling, dialogue comes across clear in the Dolby Digital 5.1 track in the film's native French. English subtitles are available. The levels are mixed very well and the audio side of this disc is a job well done.

The Extras
-"Making Of" Featurette - This is a 20 minute interview with the director and features some footage from the set of the film. Some insight is given into the various aspects of production from writing the script to casting and funding along with some influences that made it into the film.

-"Homer" - A short film from Chateau about a rabbit getting loose from his cage and doing rabbit things.

Also included is the original promotional trailer for the film.

The Bottom Line
ASYLUM probably isn't going to make your top 10 list anytime soon but it is a competent thriller despite its setbacks. Perhaps most importantly it shows solid potential in its director for bigger and better things. If you're into gangster flicks or thrillers set in the woods this one is worth a shot.

ASYLUM is available HERE

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