PLOT: Trying to kick his addiction to drugs, a man endures an incredibly trying day while his psychotic brother attempts to get him back on the smack.
REVIEW: A man wallows in his decrepit house and suffers from the sickening effects of drug withdrawal… Doesn't sound like a very fun time, does it? That's essentially an accurate synopsis of Adam Mason's JUNKIE, and yet it would not do you a service to assume by that handful of words this is a miserable journey into the heart of a drug fiend's psyche. Just the opposite: It's a lot of fun.
The reason JUNKIE is entertaining is because it's so deliriously twisted and energetic - you can't quite look away from it - and yet it isn't a flippant joke using drug addiction as a springboard for wackiness. Enhanced by two unabashed performances by its two leading men, and complimented by a handful of off-kilter supporting turns, Mason's film is at once a wired gross-out dark comedy with blood, puke, zombies and hallucinations galore, and also a strangely sad tale of a man overwhelmed by his own demons. Hats off to Mason for achieving a movie with a tone that alternates between surreal fever dream and existential character study.
The film rolls out kind of like a play, depicting a tumultuous afternoon in the life of Danny (Daniel Louis Rivas), a glassy-eyed loser intent living in his dead mother's house. He's intent on quitting the drugs (as far as I can tell, he partakes in everything imaginable), but he's not going to have much luck while his brother Nicky (Robert LaSardo) is around. Nicky is a hyperactive nightmare; talking non-stop, pleading with Danny to call every drug dealer in the neighborhood, utterly incapable of doing a single thing by himself without Danny's help. Danny, while still assuring himself he's not up to using again, eventually concedes and attempts to get his brother a fix.
(Minor spoilers follow) It doesn't take too long to figure out that Nicky isn't really there. That is to say, in a way reminiscent of FIGHT CLUB, Nicky is something of a devil on Danny's shoulder. He's Danny's addiction (perhaps in the form of an actual late brother), constantly beckoning, bargaining, whining. Danny can't say no to his "brother", resulting in a call placed to Otto (Tomas Boykin), a profane creep with whom Danny gets into a disagreement with quickly. Said disagreement results in the murder of Otto, which in turn results in Nicky suggesting they drain the drug dealer's blood (which they would then shoot into their own veins to achieve a high, naturally).
This is not even the weirdest thing that happens to Danny during his hellish afternoon. His father (Andrew Howard, a regular of Mason's films) drops by with a whore he married from Las Vegas, and even Charles Manson and a couple of his followers appear out of nowhere. Perhaps worst of all, Otto isn't really dead - he's now a zombie Danny and Nicky have to look after.
Sounds crazy? Is crazy. JUNKIE unfurls as a series of surreal encounters between Danny, his spastic brother and the string of visitors who pop in unexpectedly. Mason allows his cast to go over-the-top entertainingly, and he and his co-writer Simon Boyes have provided them with juicy, perverse dialogue to spit out. All involved have a nice set to play with too; a house littered with old-fashioned furniture and realistic crud, there's almost no doubt in your mind that a this is the home of a deadbeat who hasn't bothered to exchange his mother's stuff for something better.
There's a twist at the end of the film that may or may not subvert everything we just watched, which is something I'm never satisfied with. I do believe that it can be taken more than one way, so don't accuse me of spoiling anything, but for me, personally, I'm never a big fan of when the entire rug is pulled out from underneath you during a film's climax. You want to do the twist, that's fine; I love when something unexpected pops up during a film's final minutes. But don't make me think that almost everything I've been watching has been bull, that's no way to gain a satisfied customer.
However, because the finale can be read as ambiguous, and because the movie is such a gonzo, go-for-broke ride up until then, I'll give JUNKIE a break. The actors deserve all the credit in the world for selling some truly cringe-inducing characters doing horrendously awkward things in the midst of an absolute nightmare. LaSardo and Howard in particular shred the scenery, but Rivas deserves notice if for no other reason than his face is so odd and expressive, would really love to see this guy in more because he's so interesting to watch.