Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 4th, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: France, 2008
Director: Olivier Chateau
Writer: Olivier Chateau
Cast: Julien Courbey, Jean-Marie Lamour, Jacques Frantz
DVD released: November 13th, 2012
Approximate running time: 82 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 French
DVD Release: Synapse Films
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: A small time crook bites off more than he can chew when he tries to become a gangster.
The French have a had long history of making gritty crime thrillers that are unlike anything that has come before in that genre. With the most notable French filmmaker’s contributing to this genre being Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samurai, Le Cercle Rouge) and Luc Besson (Nikita, Leon). Though these two aforementioned filmmakers and the films that they made had a considerable larger scale to work with. That does not diminish in anyway what Olivier Chateau is able to accomplish with Asylum, despite a very limited amount of resources. Reportedly Asylum was shot for the meager sum of $4,000.
Right from the get go Asylum pulls you into the bleak world which its protagonist Jack inhabitants. We are first introduce to this character as he officiates a friendly game of Russian roulette. And without giving away to much about what is yet to come, let’s just say that this scene like many which follow it are full of misdirection. This moment does however set in motion Jack’s downward spiral which includes a brief rise in the ranks of being a gangster and a lengthy decline into the pits of disappear which make up the bulk of the plot.
Are the moments where the plot defies like? Yes! And yet this never takes away from the overall impact of the story at hand. Cinema is after all about escapism and this film fits that description to a tee and then some. Also being that this is a film about underworld criminals it should not come as a surprise that there is an ample amount of violence that appears on screen. With that being said, the depiction of violence is never to gratuitous and always enhances the story at hand.
Without a doubt the one area that this film excels the most is its stark use of black & white cinematography which is at times reminiscent of the style often associated with the Film Noir genre. Another area in which this film often impresses is the performances of its cast, especially that of its leading man Julien Courbey in the role of Jack. Ultimately in a world in which everything seems to be carbon copies of what was successful before, along comes a film like Asylum that dances to the beat of its own drum.
Synapse Films presents Asylum in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films intended aspect ratio. This film looks very good considering its low budget origins.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in French and removable English subtitles have also been included with this release. The audio sounds clear and balanced throughout.
Extras for this release original promo trailer (2 minutes 8 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in French with English subtitles), a ‘Making of’ featurette (19 minutes 28 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in French with English subtitles) and a short film titled ‘Homer’(6 minutes 32 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in French with English subtitles) that comes with a introduction from director Olivier Chateau. The ‘Making of’ featurette covers all the main areas of this production and the short film ‘Homer’ revolves around a rabbit, who escapes his cage and wreaks havoc. Overall Asylum gets a first rate release from Synapse Films.