Asylum (aka I want To Be a Gangster): Cult DVD Review

Synapse Films
Director: Olivier Chateau
Writer: Olivier Chateau
Stars: Julien Courbey, Jean-Marie Lamour, Jacques Frantz
(From imdb.com)
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asylum dvd

What they say: A small-time crook named Jack (Julien Courbey) wants to move up the underworld hierarchy to become a big-time gangster. After a deadly mistake that almost costs him his life, he gets the opportunity and it’s much more than he bargained for! Chained to a tree and left to die with no food or water, he has to use his sharp wits and knowledge to survive this horrible torture. Encountering predators both animal and human, Jack fights for his life as he struggles mentally with his career choice. He wants to be a gangster, but at what cost? ASYLUM (aka I WANT TO BE A GANGSTER) is a fantastic independent film from French director Olivier Chateau. Shot in standard definition with a strange desaturated sepia color palette and intentionally degraded grainy picture quality, this film has a unique look that sucks you in and never lets you go.

What I say: Over the last few years I have been really enjoying checking out French genre cinema. It all started with the horror new wave that brought us stuff like Inside and Martyrs. So any time I see a new French genre film I get excited. Synapse Films has brought over Asylum (aka I Want To Be a Gangster) and given their knack for finding cool movies to share with us, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

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Asylum is the story of Jack, a two-bit crook who dreams of the big time and being a major player in the crime scene. But when Jack and his partner unknowingly rip off a Mafia boss a new opportunity opens up for Jack. The Mafia boss gives him a shot and of course things go horribly wrong in quick order. After making a questionable decision concerning his new boss, Jack heads off to work for a rival Mafia lord but screws that up too. Now Jack is on the run but it’s not too long before he’s caught and then the films entire tone changes as we go from what is almost a farce to a Saw-like horror film. Now Jack, chained to a tree, has to figure out how to escape before the wildlife and local crazies do him in. To say anymore would be spoiler territory so I will not do that to you.

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I really enjoyed how the sudden shift was made in the film. The first half with Jack finding his way becoming a gangster was pretty amusing and enjoyable, but once he was captured it was on. The film at that point became a tense survival movie and the successful pulling off of that element really appealed to me. The film is also very well written as Jack is really explored as a character, you definitely feel for him as the film goes on. The secondary characters are also allowed a rare depth. Based on this film I am definitely looking forward to seeing more work from Olivier Chateau.

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The film itself has a very odd look to it. It is edited with quick and jump cuts to keep you off balance, but perhaps the most impressive thing about the film is how director Olivier Chateau has purposely degraded the image and desaturated the color in order to give the film a look that surely resembles watching the gangster films of his youth. The picture quality looks almost like a 1st gen DVD or really good VHS and this look does lend the film a certain nostalgic feeling that definitely complements the subject matter.

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Also Included on the disc is one of Chateau’s short films about a bunny that tears up a house and a making of featurette. Both are entertaing and give you a glimpse into the mind of this talented film maker.

Rating: 8/10
DVD: 9/10
Recommended!

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