TIFF 2011: THE INCIDENT Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor

Note to self: In the event of a power outage, avoid the mentally ill. Their first impulse will be to hunt and kill the sane.

George, Max and Ricky are a trio of struggling musicians, young men paying to record their debut album in fits and starts with money earned as cooks in the maximum security Sans Asylum for the criminally insane. It's a grim establishment, one that is far more prison than hospital - and one that appears bizarrely devoid of medical staff - the trio separated from the inmates during their work by only a single pane of shatter proof glass and the waiting nightstick of head guard JB.

It's an odd place to work but the pay is decent and it's safe enough. At least it is until one night when a storm knocks out the power and the inmates revolt, leading to a violent and bloody confrontation.

The debut feature of high power music video director Alexandre Courtes, The Incident unfortunately carries with it all of the weakness - and strengths - stereotypically ascribed to video directors making the step to features. As far as strengths the production design, lighting and atmosphere are all excellent. On a technical level you could not possibly ask for much more than what Courtes delivers. When he veers into the violence and gore - both of which burst through in sudden, shocking bursts - the work is also top notch. On a geek pleasing note it also includes one very well placed Wilhelm Scream.

As strong as The Incident is on a technical level, however, it stumbles when it comes to story and performance.Far too many of the characters come of as too-broad caricatures. A certain degree of that is expected when it comes to the villains of the piece - it is, after all, a film about crazy people acting crazy - but it crosses into the hero characters as well. Head guard JB is a walking bowl of testosterone with a night stick and only one speaking volume. The trio of bandmates never shake off a perpetual stoner haze and the big emotional confrontation between George and Max rings incredibly false. Dialogue is often poorly written, there are some significant logic holes - Where are the doctors? How did all of the patients snap out of their drug induced haze simultaneously? Why don't inmates ever seem to attack other inmates? - and if ever a film called for a charismatic central villain this film is it but it simply does not have one. And the ending will likely infuriate.

A hit and miss affair that is more hit than miss, The Incident shows that Courtes may have promise with a better script - preferably one in his native language - but on its own it is a badly flawed picture.
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