URGE (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violent and Sexual Behavior, Drug Use, and Language throughout

Directed by: Aaron Kaufman

Written by: Jerry Stahl

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Ashley Greene, Justin Chatwin, Alexis Knapp, Danny Masterson, Kea Ho & Bar Paly

The trailer for URGE sold it as a cross between THE CRAZIES and LORD OF THE FLIES with drugs. I was sold, even if reviews were terrible and Pierce Brosnan was clearly showing up because he needed some quick cash. Still, I sought out URGE and instantly regretted it by the time the end credits began to roll. Much like a drug, this film lures you in with false promises and then crushes your hopes into a fine dust. URGE has cool ideas and a few redeeming qualities, but it’s mostly hot garbage that should be avoided in favor of better crazy thrillers.

A group of friends head out for a relaxing weekend on a tropical island paradise. They have all sorts of fun activities planned, including booze, boobs, and drugs. After stopping by a strange nightclub, rational member of the group Jason (Justin Chatwin) is given a suitcase full of glowing vials by a strange intellectual simply known as The Man (Pierce Brosnan). These vials contain a drug, called “urge,” that’s all the rage on the island. Urge guarantees a high to end all highs, but it comes with one big rule: You can only use it once…ever. Being a bunch of idiots, the group decides to break the drug’s single rule and bad things happen. As their inhibitions slip away, their humanity gives way to a darker side.

URGE has a pretty awesome premise. It’s THE CRAZIES with drugs and that sounds cool. The main idea was interesting to the point where I was excited to watch this film. The story has a handful of twisted set pieces that stick out as the best moments in the whole damn film. There’s one person eating an entire cake in an orgasmic way that had me laughing my ass off. There’s a memorable moment of weight-lifting gone horribly wrong, as well as other crazy bits of over-the-top violence. These are entertaining scenes in an otherwise disappointingly dull film.

With the good, comes a whole lot of bad. URGE’s characters are bland as bland can be. The darker moments are cool for their pure spectacle, but these bits don’t leave much of an impact because the characters are paper-thin. Justin Chatwin (THE INVISIBLE, WAR OF THE WORLDS) plays a protagonist that we’re supposed to root for simply because he isn’t an unlikable douchebag. Danny Masterson plays an insufferably snobby rich asshole, while Ashley Greene looks bored as his perpetually annoyed secretary/crush. Meanwhile, the rest of the main characters include: a British jock who’s obsessed with his abs, that British jock’s diet-happy girlfriend, a nerdy outcast stereotype, and a somewhat sensible gal who begins to realize that urge is dangerous.

The only capable actor here is Pierce Brosnan as the scenery-chewing Man and his hammy bits consist of about ten minutes of screen time. While Brosnan is on the screen, he somehow makes this film entertaining in a really stupid way and this includes the story’s inexplicably baffling stray into supernatural territory. The film’s script progressively gets more ridiculous as it moves into a final third that’s mind-boggling in the worst ways imaginable. There was an attempt to throw deeper meanings into the mix and these bits come off as laughably inept, especially with a two-minute end credit sequence that belongs in a completely different movie.

URGE’s visuals look slick for the most part, but this film tries too hard to be stylish and edgy. The latter comes from opening credits that feature close-ups of two rubber fetish suits for no damn reason other than to push the envelope. The film has annoyingly sped-up transitions and unnecessary close-ups during its first act that give way to the laughably bad drug trip sequences. Urge is a drug that gives its user: sex-filled montages, psychedelic colors, and (later on) split-second images of scantily clad evil angels. This is all as laughably bad as it sounds. There are also spots of CGI blood that look godawful. Could the budget really not afford “expensive” fake blood, so they just added these fake-looking splatter effects in post?

URGE has slick visuals and a few cool moments. These redeeming factors only marginally counteract the film’s tonally muddled script, stupid plot twists, pretentious attempts at deeper meanings (brace yourself for Biblical discussions), and thoroughly unlikable characters. It’s also worth noting that the titular drug doesn’t seem all that special. The characters seem amazed that a drug would make you want to have sex in the middle of a rave party, but isn’t that the exact function of ecstasy too? Also, urge looks like a small glow stick that you snort up your nose. In short, URGE is not worth watching. Cool premise, terrible execution.

Grade: D+

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