Monday, June 21, 2010

The Level (aka the Asylum) (2009)

This week I'm going to post some reviews of some great and near great films that seem to be completely off the charts. These are films that made me want to set up this blog. They are a bunch of films that should have been among the first reviewed but I could never find the right moment to spring them on you. Deciding to do a week where I link them all together seemed like the best idea so that's what I've done. I'm beginning with one of the real finds of 2009. I wanted to post this from the get go but found I couldn't find anything better way to talk about this film other than what I said at IMDB. To that end I'm re-posting my review here with slight modification.

The chance of finding a film like this is the reason I wade into the odd independent films that I seem to suffer through again and again. This is one of those films that makes the pain of bad films worth enduring. This is one of my finds of 2009. Its not really the best of the year but a great surprise that really made me sit up and take notice.

The film concerns Eddie. Eddie is a mid-level gangster who's tied to a chair and is being worked over by some unseen people. The people working him over want to know what the story was with the meth lab that blew up in the woods and why there is a trail of dead bodies every which way to Sunday. Eddie decides that the easiest thing to do is to "level" with his torturers and tell them exactly what happened. He begins telling it one way and then is stopped and told to tell it again from the beginning. What he tells is the bulk of the movie.

Bloody, violent and wickedly funny this is one of the best independent films I've seen in a while. The characters come alive and the dialog is the right sort of smart and funny and scary. Its a small scale film that very alive and breathing. I think the film doubly works because the cast is so good. Everyone sells their part and then some. This is important because as is quickly seen no one is ever on the level and everyone is seen to be trying to twist things their own way even as things get more and more out of control. If you don't believe the characters you won't buy what they are doing and accepting what happens is what this film is all about. Paris Campbell as Eddie is amazing as a man stuck in the middle of simple job that suddenly is going horribly wrong.

I honestly had no idea where this was going at times. Okay yes I kind of knew generally how things might go, but at the same time I had no idea about the details. I didn't know what was going to happen minute to minute because things changed so much. Best of all none of it feels forced. Nothing feels arty. Nothing feels unreal.

I've seen this compared to Reservoir Dogs, which I'm guessing is because of how the story is told, but I don't think that's completely fair since both films work wonderfully on their own. (I could also compare this to another film, which I won't reveal because it might by implication, reveal something that need not be known until the movie reveals it. And yes even that is an unfair comparison) If you can find this film see it. This is the sort of film that I really want to talk about but I can't because I really want people to see and discover for themselves. As I said its not the best film of the year but its a real find. Its the sort of film that will fit nicely into the genre of pulp crime films. I can't recommend this film enough.

I'm not sure about availability of this film since I'm a bit confused by what I see at Amazon and elsewhere. I simply suggest you keep an eye out for it.

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