Broken Review

'Broken' is available solely through the official website.

In theory the short subject is the perfect arena for genre filmmaking. With only a limited amount of time at their disposal it’s far easier to concentrate on the essentials. Rather than build a character, say, it’s simpler just to build to a scare or a piece of action. Yet in this respect the short could also be considered the cinematic equivalent of a joke; ultimately it all comes down to the pay-off.

And yet this is only a theory. Look at numerous animated shorts – more often than not the easier to see – and it becomes clear that such limitations can be easily overridden. Chuck Jones’ Duck Amuck, for example, in which Daffy Duck is manipulated by an unseen animator who is finally revealed to be Bugs Bunny, is a minor masterpiece of tightly controlled humour. The problem with Broken is that its eventual reveal, its big punchline if you will, is rather trite and hackneyed. Indeed, the film could be seen as the perfect representation of the above dichotomy: on the one hand it offers action cinema in its purest form – a damsel in distress, plenty of gunplay and that's it (no need for a detailed synopsis here) – but the pay-off simply fails to satisfy.

Of course, things aren’t quite as simple as this would suggest and there are other considerations to take into account. Most pertinently it’s worth asking why Alex Ferrari wished to make Broken in the first place and why he is now distributing the DVD himself. Certainly, the latter is no doubt the result of him being proud of the end product, but there’s also something of the calling card about this piece. Indeed, there’s a huge degree of insistence what with Ferrari taking on a multitude of roles and generally showing off as much as he can.

Not that this is wholly a bad thing. Whilst Ferrari may be continually screaming out “Look at what I can do with 18 minutes and a limited budget”, he does achieve a fine veneer of professionalism and has an acute handling of the filmmaking processes. Broken is crisply edited and comes with a fine score by Mark Roumelis which in combination push all the right buttons. And when compared to a whole series of feature length, low budget genre efforts (whether they be action or horror) it demonstrates few of the technical failings which blight their moderate efforts.

That said, there are still signs of this being the work of an inexperienced director. The influences are too clearly worn on its sleeve, thereby preventing Broken from having its own voice. As the various sleeve quotes proclaim, this is a work that bears obvious comparisons with the likes of The Matrix and Quentin Tarantino’s efforts. And whilst watching it the spectres of these works continually make themselves known. Of course, what’s problematic about this is the fact that Broken doesn’t have as fine a handle on the action as the former or offer dialogue which can compare to the latter. Rather it feels like a compromised facsimile as opposed to a piece in its own right.

The other sore point comes down to the acting, though it is difficult here to decide whether this should be blamed upon Ferrari or the resources he had at his disposal. If it’s a case of these being the only actors he was able to work with then it’s not too difficult to overlook the rough edges to most of the performances (no one really makes an impression whilst reaction shots especially seem to present a problem). However, it could equally be the case that Ferrari was too busy concentrating on the technical side to pay them much attention. Indeed, it's this element which is integral to how Ferrari develops as a filmmaker. Only with the next project will we see whether the flaws evident here are owing to constrictions of budget or a director not yet in full command of the medium.

The Disc

As a low budget enterprise in which the filmmakers themselves are manufacturing and distributing the DVDs themselves, we perhaps shouldn’t expect too much from Broken in disc form. And yet what’s most remarkable about this whole achievement is the fact that this release comes with enough extras to shame a James Cameron DVD and a decidedly fine presentation.

With regards to the latter, the only major flaw is that Broken comes with a non-anamorphic transfer. Otherwise we get the film in its original 1.85:1 ratio, demonstrating no technical flaws and looking pretty much as should be expected. Indeed, given Ferrari’s hands on approach in putting this disc together you can pretty much guarantee such a fact.

The same is also true of the soundtrack. Here we are offered both DD2.0 and DD5.1 mixes and whilst I’m uncertain as to which should be deemed the “original”, the fact that Ferrari had an involvement in both means neither should be considered as inferior. Indeed, though the DD5.1 may offer a more atmosphere viewing experience owing to the manner in which it utilises the score, both are equally fine and free of technical flaws.

As for extras the disc is positively overwhelmed by them. Take a look at the sidebar on the right of the screen and you’ll notice numerous commentaries, loads of featurettes and various galleries. Indeed, given the manner in which everything has been broken down into minute chunks rather than compiled into a lengthy documentary, there really is little to discuss. The ‘Anatomy of a Stunt’ featurette, for example, is exactly what it claims to be, and the same goes for the rest of pieces. As such we get coverage on pretty much ever aspect of Broken’s pre-production, production and post-production. And whilst it may have been preferable to find them in a more easily digestible overall ‘making of’, in this manner we do get easy access to whatever special feature we may wish to view.

Of the various pieces, then, it is perhaps only the commentaries which need any kind of discussion. Then again, there’s also a predictable air to each of the chat tracks. The one involving the actors is overly jokey and doesn’t take the film too seriously. Ferrari’s pieces are incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing. And the technical ones are, well, extremely technical. Of course, we also get some crossover with what’s been covered elsewhere on the discs, but at only 19 minutes none of these pieces outstay their welcome. Indeed, all in all, a fine extras package.

As with the main feature, none of the extras come with optional subtitles, English or otherwise.

'Broken' is available solely through the official website.

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Last updated: 12/05/2018 03:14:23

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