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Case Number 18249: Small Claims Court

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High Life

Image Entertainment // 2009 // 79 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // February 4th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab is living the high life. Well, it's more like a mid-level, 12th floor life.

Editor's Note

Our review of High Life, published March 12th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

The perfect crime…the not so-perfect team.

The Case

The title of the Canadian film High Life (an adaptation of a play of the same name) is a case of truth in advertising. It is about a bunch of criminals who want lots of money and lots of drugs, but not necessarily in that order.

It's 1983, and ATMs have just burst onto the scene. Withdrawing money is now a piece of cake; stealing it should be a snap as well. At least, that's what ex-con and drug addict Dick (Timothy Olyphant, Hitman) thinks. Dick manages to recruit three additional shiftless, substance abusers into his scheme. They are the psychotic and freshly out of the clink: Bug (Stephen Eric McIntyre, Horsemen), neurotic Billy (Joe Anderson, The Ruins), and pretty-boy Billy (Rossif Sutherland, Timeline).

Dick's plan is simple: rob a bank's ATM by posing as repair men. No guns, no violence, and, as he tries to make clear to Bug, no killing. After all, what could go wrong? Everything, of course. But what would you expect from a group of drug addict robbers, who can't go one day without shooting-up, including the night before the action?

On many levels, High Life is pedestrian, offering nothing new to its genre. Heist films are a dime a dozen. Heist films featuring flawed characters with grand plans that fall apart almost before they begin are also in oversupply. Further, starting a crime film in the middle of the action and then retelling the story up to that point via flashback, which this film does for no particular reason, is also old hat. Humorous drug-induced hallucinations (e.g., a horse in the middle of a living room) have been done to death. Ditto for a having a gang that includes a cold-blooded psycho and an anxious wimp.

However, the film does have some things going for it. First, the 1980s setting means that the film is without all the high-tech gadgetry of today. Setting the story in Canada (it was filmed in Winnipeg) in the early 1980s allows the film to load the soundtrack with plenty of April Wine songs, which is kind of cool. Further, the various twists that send the robbery spiraling increasingly out of control, leaving Dick ever more exasperated, are somewhat inventive and, in some cases, humorous. Additionally, the action unfolds at a brisk pace (the film clocks in at just under 80 minutes). Last, the four main players, especially Olyphant and McIntyre, make the most of their roles and have excellent chemistry.

The review copy was a screener, so I cannot comment on video and audio quality.

The screener did not include any of the advertised extras.

While it doesn't stake-out any new ground, High Life is an efficiently told and occasionally entertaining little film. It's worth a rental if you're in the mood for a crime pic and don't have much time to spare.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Crime
• Foreign

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer


• IMDb
• Official Site

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