The mind is the only bastion of sanity. Inside we’re meticulous prisoners, making thousands of decisions a day just to keep our keel straight. From blinking to sniffling to ordering a pizza there isn’t a single moment spared the conflict of possibly doing something different at that exact time. At the controls we’re in charge, often times falling back on auto-pilot; letting our quiet subconscious take the reigns, silently navigating us through a world taken for granted in all its pandemonium and possibilities.

Aiden (played feverishly by Josh Lawson) makes a living as a crime-scene photographer, snapping graphic images and selling them to interested buyers. His days are long and monotonous: checking the police scanner for possible work, chatting with his cop buddy Pete (Ron Perlman) and attending 12 step programs to keep busy. He believes in God, tells him of his plans to be a better man and about the man he wants to become. On the outside he’s sheepish. Tucked inside an unassuming package of an everyday guy with a scruffy beard and near permanent half smile. Inside though, there’s someone else grabbing at the controls, working overtime to let it be known they want their turn. Someone with a similar voice but a whole different perspective on how things should work.

Like a passive aggressive Jekyll and Hyde Aiden moves through the city, dealing with annoying and vicious people; playing out scenarios where he deals with them in different fashions, earning him creative rewards. Unfortunately what he builds in his mind never reaches the heights he dreams of in real life. This all changes the day he runs into Virginia (Emma Lung), a young woman living in his building. Their encounter follows a loud argument she has with her ex-boyfriend Ravi (Edward Furlong). Aiden is instantly smitten with her, making his subconscious even louder than before. Confidence was always a pot he kept on the back-burner, but to him, she’s worth turning up the dial.

When confidence does break through, it opens the floodgates for other areas in his psyche. The inner commentary kept to himself finds cracks in his walls, butting its way into conversations and making him a dynamically boisterous fellow.  Aiden is turned into a new man, one on track to being what he wants to be. The only problem is that he wants to be a Lothario vigilante with ties to Bill Gates. What Crave does effortlessly is immerse us in the mind of a blooming psychopath. Aiden benefits from sharing some of the same DNA as Travis Bickel and Don Juan DeMarco, allowing for some pretty creative exchanges and confrontations. He sets off on a bizarre trajectory, one juiced up on blackmail and societal custodial duties, gaining strength as love expands inside him. He is a monster cutting his teeth between the real and make-believe, and we’re given a unique look at what makes him growl.

Watching Aiden move about in his own flesh is like witnessing a grape on a burning hot plate, shrinking and expanding in its skin, ready to explode at any minute. The fun of the film is that he is easily likable and we cringe along with him as he goes about his (mis)adventures. Early on he bumps into Virginia on laundry day while wearing a shirt that reads “I shaved my balls for this?”, his face is a grab bag of embarrassment and charm,  one hard not to sympathize with given the circumstances. The relatable flaws are so prominent that when he contemplates using a gun it’s hard not to squirm, especially after watching how well he handles pressure.

Director Charles de Lauzirka makes an impressive directorial debut with Crave. Co-writers Robert Lawton and Lauzrika execute the script (adapted from a story by Lawton) in a way that is at once entertaining and wrenching. Pairing comedy with violence and tension is a tough act to pull off well. What the film does is work the elements into a fine lather so that situations hit in well-crafted waves, leaving layers to be appreciated in their subtlety. The peek inside shows us Aiden is a man out of control, whose broken subconscious not only saddles up, but noisily applies a bit and affixes the blinders.  A man can be many things to himself, being self possessed is dangerous territory.

The Upside: It’s well acted and genuinely fun. Crave plays better than similar films with much larger budgets. The end credits are fantastic.

The Downside: Opponents of voice-overs will not be amused.

On the Side: de Lauzirka is also a sought after creator of DVD content, working with directors like Ridley Scott, David Lynch and Sam Raimi.

Grade: B


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