crave1[xrr rating=1.5/5]The tagline for Charles de Lauzirika’s debut feature Crave is efficient but misleading poster-speak: “He craves justice. At any cost.” Such marketing promises catharsis in the form of vigilante cinema, but the ludicrous adventures of the awkward slacker at the center of this overlong indie is unlikely to satisfy the discerning moviegoer’s craving for plot and character.

Aiden (Josh Lawson) is a crime scene photographer who finds grisly locations in the dark recesses of abandoned Detroit with the help of Pete (Ron Perlman), a friend on the police force. Our would-be anti-hero is no 21st century Weegee (that’s the 1930s and 40s photojournalist who made vivid photos of bloody crime scenes and larger than life personalities, for those who don’t catch the reference). Instead, Aiden shoots close-ups of blood and guts, and the subject matter understandably eats at his psyche. We hear Aiden’s internal dialogue and see his daydreams from the beginning of Crave. Disgusted with himself and his sins of commission and omission, he wants just once to arrive on the scene of a crime in time to save a life, not just to document its brutal aftermath.

This misguided vigilante longs to be an active participant in life, not a passive observer, but his vivid daydreams of what he considers a life fully lived are fraught with delusion and demons. Aiden imagines getting a phone call from Bill Gates, who offers bags of money (in one daydream, a Gates impersonator actually holds up bags with dollar signs) which Aiden politely turns down. He dreams of saving damsels in distress on the subway, and in thanks the pretty buxom girls get on her knees for him right on the elevated train.

Crave puts us inside Aiden’s increasingly unhinged thoughts and daydreams for an increasingly uncomfortable two hours, but male adolescent fantasies of super heroics soon turning into something more vicious. The trouble with the movie is that Aiden’s most powerful motivation is not justice. What Aiden craves is attention, and the nature of that attention is, despite generous portions of sex and violence, thoroughly uncompelling.

Leading man Lawson has worked previously as a supporting actor in movies like the Will Ferrell comedy The Campaign, a movie that suggests what might have been a more successful casting choice. Lawson gives off the vibe of an overgrown man-child who lives in his mother’s basement, which perfectly suits the role of Aiden. But Lawson does not have the kind of magnetism that can carry a feature film. Aiden would have been a great against-type role for Campaign co-star Zach Galifianakis. The comedian’s tone of selfishness and the desperate need for approval, transposed onto a slacker-turned-sociopath, would have knocked this role out of the park. But he would still have had a weak script, full of stupid people doing stupid things.

Crave has a few details that might be of interest to photographers. Aiden uses a digital SLR (actually a Nikon with the logo crudely blacked out) for most of his work, but switches to a vintage rangefinder for more “personal” work. In addition to gory crime photos, Aiden likes taking the pictures of refrigerator contents at crime scenes, which may be a reference to a classic photograph by William Eggleston. But most viewers won’t find even that much to care about here.

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