Directed by Charles de Lauzirika
At first glance Charles de Lauzirika’s debut, Crave, comes off as another pop commentary on the decay of civilization and the pent-up desire for retribution. Seen most famously in Taxi Driver and Seven, Vigilante starring Robert Forster and Fred Williamson is probably my personal favorite dealing with the topic. Crave, however, is far from exploitive, and although it doesn’t quite manage to muster enough horsepower to really excite, Lauzirika’s measured directing and Josh Lawson’s lead performance make it a passable entry thrown into the bin with other like-minded films over the years.
Crave stands out at times largely because it’s more of a psychological endeavor than a physical one for Lawson’s character, Aiden - a crime-scene photographer who has seen so much death that it’s made him despise the living. Regardless of what he does, Aiden still actually prefers the dead because at least that person has no chance of bothering him anymore. Through a series of depraved fantasies, his mind allows him to go deeper and deeper into depravity because he is so numb to the horror he’s witnessed on the outside. With an antihero established, the performance is tortured without being off putting, and films like Crave usually live and die by the lead character. But the problem is that Aiden is not quite pathetic enough to feel sympathy for and not bold enough to truly act out. So, instead, he rages inside himself.
The supporting cast also has some welcomed familiar faces, as the always engaging Ron Perlman makes an appearance along with Edward Furlong (a.k.a. my doppelganger when we were both twelve). Actress Emma Lung plays the well-meaning Virginia, but even her advances can’t salvage whatever humanity Aiden has left to impersonate someone with any real feeling left.
Actually, Crave works in a metaphorical sense if Aiden is looked at as an example of what can happen to a person (and ultimately humanity) if apathy seeps into the soul and out into the streets as a result. If the expectation of self-justice wasn’t always hanging over his head, there might have been a deeper psychological endeavor to grab hold of in certain scenes, allowing for a deeper sense of connection with Lawson and his performance.
Credit due to de Lauzirika rests in his ability to lift the story up visually, and his documentary work with behind-the-scenes footage on films like Blade Runner must have influenced his sense of staging and lighting, which are striking at times. It’s also helped him already have some experience interacting with actors on set, which may have helped him pull such a good performance out of Lawson in moments. Oddly, the editing could have been much tighter as the film’s running time is much too long for a story that’s fairly straightforward, a skill the director most certainly honed in his previous efforts as well. Perhaps it’s a case of a first-time director being a little too passionate about the story he was telling, resulting in being too wrapped up in it. If that’s the case, that’s certainly not a bad characteristic and makes me want to see his next effort. Crave, unfortunately, just doesn’t have all the pieces where they should be.
The problem with Crave is that we want to see the lead character lose control and embark on an action-packed maniacal rampage, but instead Aiden repeatedly manages to back off from the bleeding edge of his own bubbling dark side. The momentum of the film comes from the build-up of a warped psyche, not from the ability for the protagonist to maintain his sanity. The audience probably won’t be rooting for rehabilitation; they’ll be hoping for annihilation.
2 1/2 out of 5