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D: Aaron Kaufman / 90m

Cast: Justin Chatwin, Danny Masterson, Ashley Greene, Pierce Brosnan, Nick Thune, Alexis Knapp, Chris Geere, Bar Paly, Eric Davis, Jeff Fahey, Kevin Corrigan

In Urge, there is only One Rule: you can only take said designer drug once. It’s new, much more addictive than any other drug available, and can only be found at a nightclub on Eastman Island, off the coast of New York. When arrogant businessman Neil (Masterson) takes his p.a. Theresa (Greene), and friends Joey (Knapp), Danny (Thune), Vick (Geere), and Denise (Paly) to his home there for the weekend, they find another (uninvited) friend, Jason (Chatwin) already there. The group head for the island’s only nightclub, where they find the guests rapidly shedding their inhibitions and having the time of their lives. Jason is invited to meet the club’s owner (Brosnan), who supplies him with Urge, a new drug that promises to surpass anything Jason and his friends have tried before… and so it proves, except for Jason who is unaffected by it.

Despite the One Rule, Neil and friends go back the next night to score some more Urge. Later, Jason awakes back at Neil’s house where a party is in full swing, and Urge is being taken repeatedly by everyone there. But instead of providing everyone with a good time, darker aspects of their personalities and hidden desires are being drawn out by the drug. Sex and violence abound, and try as he might, Jason can’t get any one of his friends to listen to him when he tells them something is wrong. With the violent behaviour increasing, he attempts to get them to leave but only Joey is able to go with him. But once they do they discover that things are worse all over the island, and Jason learns that the mysterious club owner has a much darker plan for Urge than anyone could have imagined.

Urge - scene1

Showing the effects of a drug high on screen is often an excuse for directors to go overboard in the editing suite by stitching together static shots with jump cuts featuring bursts of colour and/or flashing images (and not always in a way that makes any sense). Urge takes this option but doesn’t overdo it, choosing instead to have its cast behave in angry, declamatory ways that are meant to be dramatic but are often absurd and laughable; you could be forgiven for thinking that getting high means acting in an over the top manner and shouting a lot (which is pretty much Masterson’s entire performance). This all leads to various comeuppances and violent confrontations that, alas, add little to the main narrative, and are largely contrived.

What doesn’t help is the movie’s determination to be a tortured religious allegory, with Brosnan’s character (all tired verbiage and inappropriate laughing) put forward as a vengeful God, and Urge being used as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. None of it makes any real dramatic sense, and when Jerry Stahl’s script isn’t trying to make Urge seem like an edgy thriller, it stops the movie short and lets Brosnan’s mysterious club owner pontificate on the failings of the human race (dialogue that not even Brosnan can make credible). There’s an attempt at making the spread of the drug an example of the drawbacks relating to free will, but it’s awkward and ill-conceived in its execution.

Rating: 3/10 – with an unwieldy narrative that rarely makes sense and has a nodding acquaintance with plausibility, Urge wants to be a tense, disturbing thriller, but ends up  falling short on both fronts; Chatwin and co. struggle with their underwritten characters, and director Kaufman (making his feature debut) shows an aptitude-lite approach to the material that hampers it even further.