What would you do if you had no inhibitions? If you were a "perfect," undiluted version of yourself completely free from societal pressures or anxieties? Well, if you're anything like the characters in Aaron Kaufman's 'Urge,' then the answer is simple. You'd have sex with a cake. And then kill people. Lots and lots of people. So, I really hope you're nothing like the characters in Aaron Kaufman's 'Urge.' Because they're awful. And covered in frosting.
An unpleasant, dull, shallow, and disappointingly pedestrian thriller, the movie attempts to examine humanity's animalistic impulses but fails to say anything meaningful or provide any real entertainment value along the way. In fact, the only "urge" I had to resist while watching this flick was the nagging desire to shut it off.
The story follows a group of thoroughly unlikeable friends as they decide to take a weekend vacation on a nearby island. While partying at a local club, they're introduced to a new mysterious drug called "urge" which promises to give them the trip of a lifetime. Stripped of all their inhibitions, the gang suddenly lets loose, enjoying their hidden desires without hesitation. But as they start to abuse the drug more and more, they become unable to control their darkest impulses. Forced to face their own primal urges, the friends struggle to survive as the island is overcome by lust and destruction.
Much of the potential success of the film hinges on the gradual transformations that occur to the characters as they use the drug, but there's one fundamental problem -- the protagonists start off as being so poorly and thinly defined, that there's really nowhere interesting for them to go. Sure, we get a requisite uptight woman who predictably sheds her anxieties, but by and large the group members lack distinct personalities. And the few recognizable traits that are present are so overwhelmingly obnoxious, that it makes caring about their journeys nearly impossible. In other words, the characters start off as douchebags and the drug just makes them even bigger douchebags.
And if being forced to watch terrible people doing terrible things to each other isn't problematic enough, the filmmakers also fail to make many of these terrible things visually or thematically interesting. A trippy club scene early on does provide some stylistic bravado with lots of slow motion and bold lighting, but later scenes lack engaging direction. Likewise, the title drug itself comes across as kind of lame. Urge is hyped as this be-all-end-all of experiences, but its initial effects amount to little more than a lot of inappropriate touching. More extreme behavior occurs as the runtime develops, of course, but even these more aggressive reactions end up demonstrating very little imagination. Characters have lots of sex, fight each other, yell at each other, torture each other, kill each other, and… that's about it. That is, save for one very notable exception.
At one point, one character takes a healthy dose of urge and finds herself alone with a tasty looking cake. Devoid of any inhibitions, she does the only rational thing that any sane person would do. She f*&cks it. Wait, that's far too crass a word for what transpires. Let me rephrase -- she makes love to it. Sweet, sweet love. What follows is a rhythmic montage of carnal glances, pursed lips, soft moans, fluffy layers, dripping frosting, and gyrating crumbs, resulting in one of the most sensual and intimate portrayals of lovemaking to ever grace the silver screen.
Sadly, this decadent high point is never reached again. Instead, as the third act comes around, 'Urge' essentially smacks a "P" in front of its title and quickly devolves into an amateur 'Purge' wannabe that sees the island turn on itself. And while this descent into total chaos and violence has the potential for some solid thrills, it's ultimately all too hastily and lazily thrown together to make an impact. Clunky filmmaking and clear budgetary restrictions rob the action of any heft or scope, and an utterly bizarre and inexplicably abrupt "twist" ending introduces a laughably out of place supernatural element. In fact, the conclusion is so rushed and seemingly incomplete that it almost looks as if the filmmakers simply ran out of money and were forced to cobble together an ending. And don't get me started on the totally unnecessary after credits tag which adds nothing and feels like it's from a completely different movie.
Homicide and pastry f*&king. That's really all there is to 'Urge.' But even as appealing as that combination must sound, the results are mostly a chore to sit through. With unlikeable characters and uneven filmmaking, the only bright spots here are a music video-like club scene and some borderline "so bad they're good" moments -- usually involving food erotica or a scenery-chewing Pierce Brosnan. So, unless you happen to have a big cake fetish, most viewers will likely have very little urge to ever see 'Urge.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate presents 'Urge' on a BD-25 Blu-ray disc housed in a keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. Instructions for an iTunes/UltraViolet Digital Copy are included inside. After some skippable trailers, the disc transitions to a standard menu. The packaging indicates that the release is region A coded.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though a tad inconsistent, this is an overall strong image with pleasing clarity.
The source is in great shape with only a fleeting sign of aliasing around neon lights in one shot and some light grain-like noise. Detail is sharp, offering a good sense of fine texture in characters and background objects -- especially during the movie's extravagant club scene which is filled with sumptuous colors and high contrast drug-enhanced imagery. Outside of the club, however, the palette can be a tad drab, though the intentional style is rendered well and certain wardrobe choices, like a punchy red shirt, pop off the screen nicely. With that said, some shots do look a little flat compared to others with a more overtly digital quality. Whites are balanced well and black levels are solid, though a nighttime scene on the beach can get a bit murky.
Some shots can't help but reveal the film's budgetary restrictions, but the transfer is free from any egregious technical issues and the picture is home to sharp details throughout.
The film is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, along with optional English SDH, English, and Spanish subtitles. Key scenes offer some bombastic kick, but the mix is a bit uneven and is prone to occasional balance issues.
Dialogue is mostly clear, but some scenes do exhibit a comparatively flat quality and speech does get overpowered by background effects and music in a few scenes (especially the climactic beach sequence) making it a little hard to make out certain lines. The main titles kick things off with a bang, introducing us to the film's thumping score with wide range and deep LFE. Similarly bombastic flourishes mark the movie's impressive club scene, spreading music around the room with full, powerful bass cues along with a few immersive effects during drug-induced trips. With that said, outside of the club and party atmosphere, the mix is a bit restrained, offering a less engaging sense of atmosphere.
With its uneven balance, this track is a bit of a mixed bag. Though the design work is capable of being quite immersive in specific scenes, dialogue does get a little drowned out in certain sequences.
'Urge' is a thoroughly unpleasant and pedestrian thriller with unlikeable characters and banal writing. The video is very solid but while it can be appropriately bombastic, the audio mix has some balance issues. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the only supplement we get is a disposable featurette. With virtually no redeeming qualities, this is one flick that most viewers will want to skip. That is, unless you really, really like cake.