Asylum (aka I Want To Be a Gangster) DVD Review
Written and directed by Olivier Chateau
2008, Region 1 (NTSC), 82 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on November 13th, 2012
Julien Courbe as Jack
Jean-Marie Lamour as L'homme
Jacques Frantz as Le patron
Jean-Pierre Kalfon as Le grand patron
Abel Jafri as Le décontracté
Alexandre Pesle as L'assistant
Frédéric Saurel as Le gardien
Jack is the luckiest unlucky bastard that you will ever meet. A low-level criminal by trade, he manages to hustle his way through life by the skin of his teeth. I am Jack's smirking revenge. Having miraculously survived retaliation from a local mobster after inadvertently swindling him out of some drug money, Jack quickly finds himself again on the wrong side of fortune. I am Jack’s raging bile duct. Soon embraced by another rival mob boss, a careless meeting with the boss’ nephew ends in disaster when the clueless wannabe accidentally shoots himself while playing around with Jack’s gun. I am Jack’s cold sweat. Unfortunately, this time, Jack’s luck has finally run out. Knowing full well that he’ll never be able to talk himself out of this one, he goes on the run. I am Jack's inflamed sense of rejection.
Jack’s life on the lam is a brief one as he’s quickly abducted by a couple of cheeky henchmen with orders to terminate with extreme prejudice. Upon awaking from his bound, drugged, and blindfolded state he finds himself in the middle of a dense forest, chained to a thick tree like a rabid junkyard dog. As the hours become days, succumbing to the effects of exposure and dehydration, and with all hope dwindling, a chubby, bumbling visitor steps forward from the woods. Apparently it is his job to oversee Jack’s demise. He likes his job very much, and takes great pleasure in sadistically toying with his chained up victims. Fate then steps in, once again giving our anti-hero a possible chance at escape.
If you choose to believe the producers, this movie was intentionally shot in standard definition in order to somehow enhance the grittiness of the story. The filmmakers are so proud of this fact that they actually include a statement about it on the back cover. The truth is watching the action play out in smudgy detail doesn’t enhance shit. In fact, it’s a tremendously lame excuse for likely not wanting to pony up the cash to shoot a movie properly. Hell, I was shooting high def home movies of my kids in 2008. If I want to watch standard definition on a high-def home theater system, I’d go to my parents’ house where they insist on connecting their 1080p flat-screen with RCA cables. They also have a penchant for zoom stretching everything because they loathe those pesky black bars taking up precious space on their screen, yet swear that they LOVE the era of high-definition television. Their huge silver top-loading VCR has also been blinking “12:00” for thirty-five years, but I digress.
The performances in Asylum A/K/A I Want to Be a Gangster, especially by Julien Courbey as Jack (think a French version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt), appear to be excellent. I say “appear” because everyone spoke frog, with English subtitles, and to my retarded American ears all performances in a foreign language sound more brilliant than I’m sure they really are. This film worked on nearly every level right from the start. I was completely and immediately sucked into the main character’s spiraling life and thoroughly enjoyed the constant give-and-take between Jack’s good and bad luck streaks. The ending also offers such a fantastic kick in the gut that is guaranteed to please. I am Jack's Broken Heart.
Video and Audio:
As previously discussed, the 1.78:1 video is in pitiful standard definition, filmed in a grainy black and white tone which is simply more annoying than inspiring. The 5.1 surround is decent, especially in scenes of whizzing bullets and gunfire.
There is a making of featurette, original promotional trailer for the film, and a cute seven minute short from writer/director Olivier Chateau about a rabbit that escapes its cage and wrecks havoc around the house. It would have been nice to include a short similar in concept and tone of Asylum A/K/A I Want To Be A Gangster as Chateau's eye for camera angles and pacing is quite refreshing.