Enigma Factory // 2005 // 15 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // August 5th, 2005
What if your truth...were a lie?
Shot on an impressive budget of $8,000, Broken represents both an impressive feat of independent filmmaking and the response to a difficult challenge: to compress an intelligent action/science fiction film into the medium of short film...without sacrificing quality. At least they got the first part right.
A girl wakes up in her bed after having a nightmare about a gun going off. She gets up for a glass of milk and finds a man sitting in her room, playing a harmonica. He grins at her maliciously, and out of the shadows comes a gun-toting leather-clad woman, who promptly incapacitates the frightened girl. She wakes up in a dimly-lit basement full of garishly dressed armed men, polishing knives and guns with consummate ease. The harmonica man, who sports a wicked-looking scar on his face, begins taunting the tied and gagged girl, asking her if she remembers this place. Has she been here before? She is frightened at first, and then becomes angry, soon losing her temper. Suddenly her eyes turn bright blue with rage. The harmonica man seems incredibly pleased with himself...
I shall not divulge any more of the plot for fear of easily explaining the entire film with another sentence or two...the film itself is a mere 15 minutes long, give or take. Suffice it to say, Broken attempts to cram all the elements of a good science fiction/action film into a tiny package. All the classic tropes of the genre are here...the innocent girl kidnapped, the mysterious eclectic stranger saying "don't you remember me?," the oddball assortment of thugs and miscreants, the endless firefights for no apparent reason other than to waste bullets, the enigmatic hitman, the awakening of superpowers, etc., etc. You name the cliché, and you will find it here, compressed it into a film barely longer than a theatrical trailer.
As a film reviewer, you have to go easy on an independent action/sci-fi film shot for the cost of a used car, so I will choose my words carefully here: it's better than a Uwe Boll film. Not much better, but definitely better. Take that whichever way you choose. Horrendously bad acting, a plot that makes little sense, strangely alienating dialogue and a taste for senseless violence would make Broken a kick-ass sci-fi/action film trailer, but as a full-length film crammed into microscopic size? It is somewhat lacking. To the film's credit, it certainly makes the best of a small medium, doing the best it can within the limited time restraints. Unfortunately, intelligent action films need breathing room to be told properly, and while the filmmakers do succeed in cramming an incredible amount of material into 15 minutes...it isn't a very good 15 minutes. The brevity of the short film format, sadly, undermines the good intentions of the filmmakers.
But don't dismiss Broken out of hand yet. Considering the financial limitations of the production, Broken has a lot of kick-ass things going for it. For an indie short film, the production values are downright impressive. Nobody can act worth a damn, of course, but that is to be expected. But as for the direction, the set designs, visual and audio quality and special effects, they are all top notch. Broken features tons of special effects shots (over a hundred, according to the Web site) crammed into a measly five minute action sequence that literally overflows with bullets, brains and blood...Sam Raimi would be proud. Sure, some of the explosions look a tad computer generated, and certain sequences that one has come to attribute sound effects to (e.g. a knife flying across the room) are oddly silent; but overall, the quality of production is Broken's best aspect and most marketable feature for the ravenous sci-fi fan.
Visual quality of the letterbox transfer is reasonable enough -- downright impressive considering the budget -- and captures the eerie atmosphere of industrial basements, flickering lights and ricocheting bullets with ease. Shot on digital video, the film does a good job of low-light shooting, which constitutes the majority of the film, keeping the grain controlled and black levels respectable. The level of detail is impressive, especially considering the entire film was constructed for the cost of the catering bill on a major motion picture shoot.
The sound was a bit out of control on the demo disc version I received for review; a stereo mix with roaring bass, overzealous ambient noise and overpowering music which managed to successfully drown out every single word of dialogue. Okay, not really. I think the filmmakers got a bit too excited with the action film soundtrack, but I can forgive their enthusiasm here. It may be loud and overpowering, but at least it sounds good. Really good.
Broken isn't a very good film -- bad acting, nonsensical plot, corny effects, the whole nine yards -- but you have to appreciate the independent spirit in which it was made and the technical proficiencies of the filmmakers. This is the kind of project that serves as a calling card for first-time ambitious filmmakers, one they can send out with their business cards as a showcase for their talent. Good for them, I say. It is amazing what a few friends, a few bucks and a camera can create. Hopefully, a film like Broken will lead to good things for the cast and crew in the future.
According to the Web site, a special edition of Broken will be available sometime in August, chock full of three hours of extra material, a surround sound track, and other goodies. If you like supporting independent filmmaking, or just enjoy big dumb sci-fi/action films, then Broken will be right up your alley. Just don't be expecting the cinematic quality that comes with, say, Alone In The Dark.
Just kidding. I'd take Broken any day of the week.
Review content copyright © 2005 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Enigma Factory
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 15 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Notes
* Official Site