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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

THE INSOMNIAC -- DVD review by porfle

I like a good "gradually going crazy" movie, whether it's really extreme like TAXI DRIVER or sort of on the funny but still kind of crazy-scary side like THE KING OF COMEDY.  Or, more recently, THE INSOMNIAC (2013), which richochets around all points in between like a jittery pinball. 

It starts out almost like a rom-com that promises to put its protagonist through a series of screwball complications, with up-and-coming young exec John Figg (Eddy Salazar) finding his life going a little too well--not only has he just been promoted into a corner office with a secretary, but he's planning to spring a sparkly stone on his lovely girlfriend Martha (Clare Grant,  BLACK SNAKE MOAN, WALK THE LINE) that very weekend.

Sounds like quirky comedy's in the cards when all this good fortune suddenly takes a nosedive, eh?  But unfortunately for John,  he lives in the really-real world where things go really bad instead of funny-complications bad. 

It starts when the car belonging to his late father,  whom he worshipped, disappears from his driveway during the night.  It gets worse when his house, which also belonged to his late father, is broken into and burgled of some of John's most priceless possessions left to him by--you guessed it--his father.  But worst of all, the thieves knock over an urn containing dear old Dad's ashes, leaving them in a scattered heap on the floor.  (Oh yeah,  and they steal his dog, too.)

By now, I was pretty sure THE INSOMNIAC wasn't going to be a comedy.  In fact, from this point onward it turns into a pretty fascinating portrait of a guy who has just stepped onto the fast track to "coo-coo" as his initial feelings of helplessness and impotence quickly transform into a toxic mixture of hostility, paranoia, and irrational suspicion of everyone around him, including his best friends, the police who are sent to investigate, and eventually even Martha.
Director Monty Miranda keeps things percolating briskly along as Eddy Salazar plays his role with a crumbling restraint that gives way to explosive bursts of scattershot rage.  One of these takes place during a meeting with a shady business client whom John suddenly suspects of being the burglary culprit.  Since the client is played by Danny Trejo, whose character doesn't appreciate being accused of things, the situation escalates into some cracking good drama aided by veteran actor John Heard as John's formerly easygoing boss, Paul.

And that's just on the professional front.  Back in the 'burbs, John also suspects his new neighbors' teenage son Tommy (Brett DelBuono, the oldest juvenile delinquent from LET ME IN) of the dastardly deed.  When John goes commando on him, Tommy's good-natured dad Ted (Keith Szarabajka of THE DARK KNIGHT) hops off the welcome wagon and wades into the fray with disastrous results. 

And since John suspects everyone equally, even his co-worker and best buddy Andrew (Spencer Berger) gets the red-headed stepchild treatment when he drops by the house to--well, I won't reveal any more here. 

Suffice it to say that somewhere around this point in the film, the things we've been dreading were going to happen actually start to happen.  And a few things we didn't even see coming start to happen too, and some of them are pretty shocking in a "did I just see that?" sort of way. 

Even without the usual cheats and fake-outs, the script by Salazar and co-writer Peter Kenneth Jones keeps us guessing as to how much is real and how much is a result of John's wildly delusional state of mind brought on by his absolute refusal to sleep (he chooses to be an insomniac) lest he lose focus and let his guard down.   We never know just how far he's going to go, or what he'll do with that gun he just bought when he gets there.

The DVD from Grand Entertainment Group (GEG) is in 1.33:1 widescreen  with 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo sound.   No subtitles.  Extras consist of a trailer and some deleted scenes.

Somewhere during the tragic inevitability that is THE INSOMNIAC, we even begin to wonder if John Figg may be right about at least one of his suspects as he furiously dashes off notes about everyone and wallpapers his house with them, displaying the same singleminded obsessiveness as Russell Crowe's character in A BEAUTIFUL MIND.   While some may think John's descent into madness a bit too abrupt or precipitous, it's still pretty riveting to watch him skirt the fringes of nightmare territory before doing a graceless swan-dive into its depths.

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