Dokument Films // 2004 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 6th, 2008
To know how high you've been, you've got to hit rock bottom.
Holy Cow. As far as explorations into the darkness of drug addiction go, I'd be willing to publicly state that Most High is pretty much unrivaled. Writer/director/star Marty Sader single-handedly delivers one of the most gripping, jarring looks into one man's descent into drug abuse and self-immolation I've seen.
Sader plays Julius, a seemingly well-adjusted guy with a rewarding job as a behavioral health counselor, a gaggle of loyal friends and an upbeat outlook on life. Then a bunch of bad, bad things happen to him all at once. His jerk of a boss fires him for being late, his adoptive father dies suddenly and he painfully exits a long-term relationship. Broken and vulnerable, Julius happens across his father's biological daughter (Laura Keys) after the funeral and immediately gets sucked into her sexy world. She's a wild one, and introduces Julius to the joys of cocaine and threesomes and anonymous sex. It's exciting at first, but this fast and hard lifestyle takes its toll on Julius and he soon bottoms out, drowning in an ocean of addiction.
Not since Christian Bale turned into an emaciated husk of his former self for The Machinist have I seen such a stunning on-screen transformation. The film itself is top-shelf for sure, but what will likely create the most buzz about Most High is how Marty Sader transformed himself from a normal-looking guy with a little bit of a well-fed gut to a skeletonized version of himself. And it's not just the physical metamorphosis that delivers drama. Sader unloads a powerful performance as a man who circles the drain, and coupled with his astonishing weight-loss, his Julius represents a profoundly effective caricature of the effects of addiction.
Though the subject material is deadly serious -- and the ending is about as grim as it gets -- Sader injects a surprising amount of black humor into the film. As a result, Most High doesn't feel as nihilistic as it had the potential to be. By no means does the humor dilute the thematic material, but it makes the film unique and memorable. The aforementioned ending won't leave you grinning from ear to ear, yet it's executed with a great amount of imagination and creativity in a fantasy-meets-reality fashion. Impressive stuff.
There's not much else to say simply because there's no room for argument: Most High is dynamite, worthy of the beaucoup awards it bagged on the independent circuit and required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the diabolical, transformative tolls of substance abuse.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen is clean and the 2.0 stereo is up to the task. This is a substance-rich experience, however, not necessarily stylistic. Sader and company deliver a chatty, but interesting feature-length commentary.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dokument Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated