Anchor Bay // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 17th, 2012
Redemption comes at a price.
One of the funniest moments in Tropic Thunder occurs when Robert Downey Jr's character admonishes another to "never go full retard." Of course his line read sells the joke, but it's funny because it's true. So many Hollywood actors have garnered awards for playing the disabled it's almost become pathetic. That said, acting crazy is not the same as playing developmentally delayed. In fact, the opposite may be true. Actors get props for going completely unhinged. When a role comes along that allows them to be crazy, the film gets made because audiences seem to love watching actors lose it. Unfortunately, it makes for unreliable narratives. On the Inside hopes to harness some of these elements to deliver a thriller, but excellent performances and assured direction can't overcome a mediocre script.
Allen Meneric (Nick Stahl, Terminator Salvation) is sent to a psychiatric facility for murdering the man he thinks killed his wife. However, rather than keeping him in maximum security, he's allowed to mingle with the general population as part of his "socialization process." Here Allen meets the troubled Mia (Olivia Wilde, Cowboys and Aliens). As their relationship grows, he must figure out how to separate reality from his illness, before it threatens his road to recovery.
They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, and to a large extent that's true. When Charlie Sheen starts making the crazy eyes, more people seem to tune into his TV show. Even tragedy can be okay. Whitney Houston sold more records in the six months after her death than she did in the six years before it. However, there are moments where the Hollywood publicity machine falters. The case of Nick Stahl is one of them. As of this writing, Stahl is missing; a problem with drugs being identified as the culprit. When your lead actor is unavailable for press junkets -- apparently off on some extended bender -- your movie becomes a distribution liability.
Even without its star's problems, there's no saying On the Inside would have been given a wide theatrical release. But it didn't help, which is probably why most people never heard about the project. On the upside, the film is well acted and well shot. Whatever his problems, Stahl can handle a performance and his portrayal of a man on the edge of sanity is impressive. Olivia Wilde once again demonstrates she doesn't mind taking decent roles in smaller films to work on her chops, and she doesn't disappoint. This being the directorial debut from actor turned writer/director D.W. Brown (The Haunting in Connecticut), his first outing is a fine one.
On the downside, there's nothing really fresh or new about On the Inside. Using the mentally ill to play with what the audience knows about reality is an old trick and, while not done poorly, it's not particularly compelling and the psych ward romance is often hard to swallow. Overall, not a bad film, it just doesn't rise above the genre crowd.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded high definition widescreen, the transfer does a nice job with unpolished looking imagery (it is set inside a psych ward). Black levels are consistent and detail is generally strong. There's a bit of noise in some of the darker scenes, but it's not distracting. The TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix handles the film's dialogue with ease, and composer Haim Mazar's score is well balanced.
The Blu-ray's lone bonus feature is a commentary from Brown and actors Joanne Baron and Daniel Franzese. It's a pretty chatty track, though there are fewer behind-the-scenes revelations than one might expect. We also get a standard definition DVD copy of the film.
Fans of these actors will be drawn to On the Inside and their time won't be wasted. It's decent little mystery-thriller with solid acting.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy
* Official Site