Directed by Alex Ferrari (2005)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Mar 16 2006
Alex Ferrari's Broken is a film that survives on what it is: an $8000 20 minute film with tons of flashy visuals and fx shots that scream out "Look how much we can do with so little money!" If you are watching this for the story or acting, then you're barking up the wrong tree. Broken's entire "gimmick" is its visual style and aesthetic. While pleasing on the eyes, it never delivered the "wow" factor I was anticipating. Sure, the visuals are slick, but there really isn't a film here.
Broken seems more like a teaser prelude to a more epic adventure yet to be filmed. Indeed, there is apparently a feature-length version of Broken on the way, and I'm assuming that this short film was simply used to "wow" investors into bankrolling a bigger project. What little story there is involves a woman who is kidnapped from her home in the middle of the night only to awaken tied to a chair with numerous evil doers standing around her with ominous sneers on their faces. While the inevitable "head" bad guy goes into a long and meandering monologue with her instead of just killing her, a dude who looks like he just came out of a Rainbow Six video game arrives to dispatch the evil doers in a stylized (yet still extremely unrealistic looking) gunfight. We then get a "twist" at the end that implies an alternate reality to what we have just seen. The problem is, I didn't really care. The plot wasn't original and there was nothing that made me want to get excited about the upcoming feature length film. Although, in fairness, the plot really isn't the main focus of this short film version.
So establishing that Broken's story is nothing to get excited about, we move on to the visual fx, the real draw of this film and what has been giving it all the accolades and critical acclaim. I honestly have to say, I wasn't overly impressed. The individual shots and editing were outstanding, the digital fx work were top notch considering the thing only cost $8000, and there was plenty of style. Yet I can't help but wonder: If you took out the "This only cost us $8000!" marketing ploy, would the film have gained as much attention as it has? The fact that so much attention is being focused on the budget, and not the actual film is telling to me. Many films have extremely low budgets, but don't use that as the mechanism to show off all the flashy fx work they did.
But film is a visual medium. Many people get hung up on the "narrative" aspect of a film. But a film is not literature. A film does not need to abide by the classical Hollywood style rule of "Story above all else". In this regard, Broken could have shined. Unfortunately, I did not see one single shot in the film that I haven't seen somewhere else. There was no boundary pushing here. There was nothing unique that made me step back and say "That's damn cool". Instead, Broken simply looks like a film school class project that relies too heavily on the "Look what we did for no money!" factor instead of what it should have been saying, a more simpler, "Look what we did!"
All is not lost though. For all of you out there who do want to know how to make stylized projects, the extras on the dvd are a smorgasbord of "How to" featurettes that run the gamut of pre-production, production, and post-production. In fact, I would venture to recommend this dvd as a purchase for filmmakers simply as an instructional guide in how to make a no-budget film look the best it possibly can. In fact, what the filmmakers should be doing is marketing this dvd as an instruction guide, with the short film being the finished product, and then packaging them both when the feature length arrives. In the end, I can't recommend this as a purchase for casual viewers. Here's hoping the feature length has more meat to it than the short.
Check out more about Broken at its official site