Judge Gordon Sullivan still has all his own teeth.
Based on true stories.
Denis Leary has a great comedy bit about what must have been going through the mind of the person who invented crack, because cocaine is so wonderful that we need a drug to make us more paranoid, more violent, and take more money out of our wallets. I feel the same way about crystal meth. Like cocaine, which is a great anesthetic for eye surgery, amphetamines can have very useful short-term side effects like wakefulness and increased stamina. But as the crack to amphetamines cocaine, crystal meth takes everything good about amphetamines and combines it with a crazy tendency towards addiction and ill health. I guess it's fun for a bit, but the path very quickly leads to death by way of permanent disfigurement. Meth Head takes us on this soul-sucking journey and, spoiler-alert, it doesn't end well.
Kyle (Lucas Haas, Witness) is in his 30s with a job he hates, a partner who makes him look bad, and a family life that doesn't make him happy. One day his friend convinces him to buy some drugs. That helps Kyle feel better, at least for a while, but we watch as the drugs slowly lead him down a path of desperation.
Breaking Bad pretty well shoved crystal meth into the national consciousness in an un-ignorable way. And even if it didn't focus on the darker side of meth use, the show made it clear that meth was big business. Combine that with all the billboards and other advertising methods that show us the terrible costs of meth use, and I'd be surprised if you could find anyone who doesn't know the terrible price that people pay for using meth. Lost teeth are the most visible, but everything else seems to follow suit very quickly.
Which makes Meth Head pretty much redundant. Another comedian, Bill Hicks, used to say that it didn't take much to make anybody homeless: the right breakup, the right group of friends, the right night and you'll have a dumpster by dawn. Meth Head spends 108 minutes showing us exactly that. If you've seen even a single after-school "just say no" special then you know exactly what's going to happen to Kyle. He's going to do the crystal, then lose everything. Been there, done that. A film like Requiem for a Dream gave us roughly similar territory, but that film generalized to all addictions and gave us several reasons for it. Kyle just seems like a dude who's unhappy, which leads him to ruin his life. I didn't really learn anything, and there's almost no dramatic tension because everybody in the audience knows what happens when you mess with crystal meth.
Which is a real shame, because a lot of talent went into Meth Head. Writer/Director Jane Clark based the story off the life of one of her actors (John McLaughin), and I can see why she'd want to tell a story as personal as this. In front of the camera, Lukas Haas is a great choice as Kyle. He's fearless in a role that requires him to go from happy-go-lucky partier to rock-bottom addict. Along the way, the film seems well-enough made, with decent camera choices and fine editing, but all of that adds up to a story that anyone could guess from frame one.
The DVD isn't bad either. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is dark, but intentionally show. Detail is fine, colors are saturated well enough, and black levels stay pretty consistent and deep. It's not a stunning presentation given the film's budget, but it looks fine enough on home video. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround keeps dialogue clean and clear from the front and uses the surrounds a bit to establish atmosphere.
Sadly there are no extras; not even a bargain-basement anti-meth PSA. Given the personal nature of the story on offer here, it's a shame that we don't get a commentary or interviews to help flesh out the back story of the feature.
Meth Head might be great for parents looking to scare their kids straight, or for those who have no experience of drugs whatsoever and want to see how bad it can get. To the average moviegoer, Meth Head will just be a depressing experience. Though the tale is told well-enough, there's very little tension in watching a man (one who's not terribly interesting to begin with) slowly slide into desperation. The DVD looks and sounds fine enough, but the lack of extras to give context is the finale nail in the coffin of a disc that's hard to recommend.
Guilty of being redundant.
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