Crave is so close to being the next fantastic piece of pulp cinema to depict vigilante justice, but at the same time, Charles de Lauzirika’s first directorial feature simply treads water for what seems like forever, only climaxing for a short period before going out with a timid whimper. There was no reason for this flick to march past the hour and a half mark, yet I found myself checking my watch an hour into the “mayhem,” only to find that close to another hour still remained – causing an exasperated sigh. Like I said, Lauzirika is so close to creating a flashy bit of independent bliss, but our main character’s mental struggle turns out to be nothing but a misleading, long-winded chore.
Aiden (Josh Lawson) goes about his daily life of shooting crime scene photography without much reaction, but deep down inside he wants something more. The corpses he photographs all tell a story, sick and twisted ones of murder, death, and the seedy nature of human society. If he wasn’t so desensitized to the gruesome material, he might be a little more disturbed by his photography, but it’s not the dead bodies that bother Aiden – it’s people. Whether he’s walking the streets, attending an AA meeting, or in his car, Aiden starts to unleash his anger through graphic fantasies that let the photographer act out his wildest, most depraved wishes. If there’s anything that can cure such thoughts, it’d of course be the love of a beautiful women, which Aiden eventually finds in a neighbor named Virginia (Emma Lung). The only problem is, as his visions become more prominent, he worries that he’ll lose Virginia if she ever finds out – or if he ever lashes out in real life. Can Aiden hold it together?
If you glance at the theatrical poster for Crave, you’ll notice plenty of destruction, explosions, and chaos, suggesting Aiden’s quest for justice may be on the physical side. Out of necessity, Aiden is established as an average Joe who wouldn’t intervene with the slightest altercation, but if you’re expecting some crazy 180 degree flip, you’re in the wrong movie. Aiden’s voices continually try to convince our main character to jump off the deep end, but he repeatedly lets us down – even when given a gun. Sure, we get his dark fantasies, but they’re just momentary relief, as his intentions become too romantically entangled to perpetuate feelings of playing hero. He’s a character we’ve seen portrayed numerous times before, and without a true breakout moment, Aiden simply becomes lost in the pack.
Let’s not discredit Charles de Lauzirika’s vision or lead actor Josh Lawson, though. Abandoning the familiarity of documentaries, our helmer showed a keen eye for framing and visual splendor, working in more abstract shots of shiny plastic windmills and properly angled moments of heated passion. Lawson helps accentuate the director’s eye with a rather strong performance (given the stale material), as Aiden’s own inner struggles are accompanied by a cheeky smile or bursting outrage, making him seem a tad more human. Lawson also has the help of co-stars Emma Lung, Ron Perlman, and even Edward Furlong to a degree, but with such a tedious path to follow, even the most stylistic lighting becomes a dull blur.
After watching Aiden get caught in one too many internal arguments, the whole experience becomes a little numbing, and it’s hard to find pleasure even in anticipation of something explosive. Aiden is like a stick of dynamite, and we’re watching the fuse slowly burn out as he becomes more and more fed up with our violent, self-obsessed, wasteful society. We wait and wait for the bomb to ignite, but instead we’re left with nothing but a weak cop-out of an ending that obliterates any tension possible. Crave isn’t about a man seeking justice – it’s about an obsessive stalker with a split personality who can’t seem to do anything right.
If you trim some of the fat off of Crave and inject a little more excitement, Aiden might have me singing a different tune – but that won’t happen. This is the movie we’re stuck with, and while some people believe Lauzirika’s film speaks volumes, I heard nothing but a meek little whisper. Looks can be deceiving, and while Crave may be a technically sound movie, it sports a hollow, unspeakably mediocre story that hooks viewers in with vigilante justice, and then opts to abandon stronger themes for crueler intentions of the heart – and takes entirely too long to do so.
For those of you expecting a rousing tale of vigilante justice and psychological thrills, you'll sadly be craving a completely different film once you realize the one you're watching doesn't have a strong grasp on either aspect.