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Askew Review 15

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Asylum
(aka "I Want To Be A Gangster")
(Synapse Films).  2008.  Comedy-Thriller.  82 Minutes.  French.  Not Rated. Jack really wants to be a gangster.  The small-time con artist looks to score big with any of the well established organizations of the criminal underground and will do almost anything to be recruited.  After mistakenly conning a syndicate's drug mule, Jack's friend ends up dead and he's unwillingly forced into a hit contract against the organization's opposition.  When a chain of misfortunate events lead him into deeper trouble, Jack finds himself in his own chain, bound to a tree, in the middle of nowhere, and without food and water.  Jack has to utilize his small-time crook survival skills in the long and lonely weeks to come and as he fights for life, uninvited guests look in on his torturous progress.  Does wanting to be a big time gangster worth the life troubles?
   Olivier Chateau's first feature film is a mixture of crime thriller and subdued comical elements.  "Asylum" (aka "I Want To Be A Gangster") independently creates an impact on foreign low-budget cinema entertainment.  Chateau's and cinematographer Christophe Larue's envisioning consists of a slight sepia and standard definition appearance to accompany the storyline's mise en scene of a 1980's to early 1990's setting.  The French film does more than just tell the unfortunate events of Jack and his rise and downfall of being a hoodlum; it perversely exploits the consistent failures of the bigger organizations while the small fry revels in street smarts and good fortune.  And "Asylum" is a good metaphor to shop small business because you know you're getting the attention and detail from Jack.  Our protagonist is played superbly by the veteran actor Julien Courbey and with Courbey's wiry frame, he seems like the unlikely hero.  Courbey boldly tackles the role with invigorating energy, while delivering the comedy needed to not make the 2008 film just a run-of-the-mill gangster movie.  Synapse Films made a honorable decision picking up the North American DVD distribution rights and is a fantastic edition for any genre collector or layman viewer.  The DVD is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, with a French 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound with English subtitles, and bonus features include a 'making of' featurette, an Olivier Chateau short film, and the original promotional trailer.  Forget the big time and think small when considering you're next viewing of a gangster film.  Remember the old proverb, less is more. -Steven Lewis

 

 

 

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