Asylum (2008) – By Duane L. Martin

Jack (Julien Courbey) has wanted to be a gangster for as long as he can remember. His dream was to get hooked up with one of the big, respected organizations, but for the time being, he’s been stuck running a russian roulette scam with his partner. Everything is working well for them, until one day, a courier for a mob boss comes in to try his hand. He loses, after insisting he’s going to win, and betting the bundle of drugs he was supposed to deliver for his boss. Well, he lost. Not by shooting himself, but because it was down to the last chamber, so it had to be the bullet. So he leaves the drugs with them, and they think that’s the end of it, but soon after, the head honcho shows up wanting his drugs. He kills Jack’s partner, and Jack, because he kept quiet, unlike his partner, and gave the guy the drugs back, was initiated into the gang. When he’s asked to kill another boss though, he figures out that it’s a setup, and turns over this boss, to another boss, who’s from a much larger and more respected organization. From there, he’s assigned a bank job to pull, and given the boss’ nephew as a henchman. The nephew doesn’t know much about guns or robbing banks, so Jack tries to teach him. Unfortunately, the guy shoots himself in the head on accident, and Jack takes off on the run, only to be captured and chained to a tree out in the middle of nowhere, left to die for what they thought he did. From then on, it’s a struggle to survive as he tries to figure out a way to get free.

This film started off with a good premise. A guy wants to be a mobster, and goes through a series of events that lead him to that goal. Once he achieve’s that goal, something bad happens and he gets on the mob’s bad side. At that point, an exciting film would have him go on the run (which he tried to do, but was quickly caught), but this film didn’t go in that direction. Basically, once the mob caught him, most of the potential excitement in the film came to a screeching halt, and suddenly, we totally switch gears, where for the rest of the film, he’s chained to a tree. This comprises probably the last two-thirds of the film, and amounts to little more than a very slow experience for the viewer that will leave you feeling far more bored than interested.

Now this isn’t to say that nothing at all happens during this time. There are a few things that go on, but there’s not enough substance there to make it interesting enough to keep the viewer interested.

Another failure of this film, is that it’s needlessly shot in black and white, and is rather grainy looking. I’m guessing that this was done to give the film a darker mood and a gritty feel, but ultimately it just seemed pretentious and unnecessary.

What could have ultimately saved this film is if he had been chained to the tree for a much shorter period of time and then went on the run. The whole slow burn, single setting thing just gets old fast.

Now, you may think from what all I just said that I didn’t like this film, and you’d be right. However, taste is a very individual thing, and I’m not going to sit here and pretend that no one will like this film. I’m guessing that there are certain people out there who would appreciate the artistic and slow burn nature of this film. It just so happens that I didn’t. The performances were ok, it’s mostly just the story I didn’t like, and unfortunately, I can’t recommend it.

This release from Synapse films has a few special features, including a "making of" featurette, "Homer" – a short film by Olivier Chateau and the original promotional trailer.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, or to pick up a copy for yourself, you can check out its page on the Synapse Films website here, or get the DVD on Amazon here.