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‘Ashens and the Polybius Heist’ (review)

Produced by Stuart Ashen, Riyad Barmania,
Linton Davies, Mark Evans

Written Stuart Ashen, Riyad Barmania
Directed by Riyad Barmania
Starring Stuart Ashen, Robert Llewellyn,
Daniel Hardcastle, Barry Lewis, Eli Silverman,
Jarred Christmas, Antony Agonist,
Alyssa Kyria, Yiannis Vassilakis

 

You know why I like a heist film?

The camaraderie. Simple as that.

The character relationships that build from a shared purpose not only endears an audience to a crew of oddball misfits, but it allows them to be caught up in the adventure and makes for a fuller film experience.

That’s basically the appeal for Ashens and the Polybius Heist.

Directed by Riyad Barmania and written by, and starring popular British YouTuber, Stuart Ashen, the story follows a devotee to archaic and outdated pop culture technology in search of a 1980’s video game that can supposedly control minds. He assembles a cadre of specially-talented nutballs to help him steal the game for his own.

A little background: if you haven’t heard of Ashen (who goes by the internet nom de plume of Ashens), he’s a YouTube comedian sensation on Britain who has amassed a following through his quirky and hilarious examinations of pop culture phenomena, retro-gaming technology and pretty much useless stuff he calls “tat”.

Because of this following, Ashen has managed to fund not just this film, but a prior one called Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild. As this is a film funded from Ashen’s following actually makes this worth watching in itself as an example of how a YouTube personality can marshal the resources of his audience.

In itself, the film suffers primarily from its relatively obscure nature in North America.

The cast is pretty much unknown with the exception of Ashens himself and Red Dwarf alumnus Robert Llewellyn, who plays Ashen’s father in the film and the creator of the Polybius arcade console. But, despite the lack of star power required to make an impression on a North American audience, the cast acquit themselves well enough to make for an entertaining and lightly humorous story. Still, unnatural fixations to lawnmowers, a face-man with an insecurity complex and a fixer with almost zero negotiation skills are still pretty memorable characters that support Ashens’ character of being a scholar of retro-obscure technology.

However, that’s likely due to the obvious intrinsic chemistry shared amongst the cast members, which goes back to my earlier point about the appeal of a heist film.

In fact, there are several moments in the story that stand out in showing this chemistry as we can tell the actors are familiar enough with each others’ work to highlight their personal gaffs and peccadilloes as part of the story. Daniel Hardcastle’s (aka The Cube) insecure fixation on the superiority of his tech, Jarred Christmas’s awkward humour and other instances that showcase their humour.

The performers have comedic or otherwise followings of their own in the UK where their humour is better known. But the film has the vibe of the type of film project that attracts friends to gather their talents to mutually support each other; a sort of exclusive club, if you like. Appropriate, as that’s the whole premise of a heist film in the first place, and that lends itself to its authenticity.

In-jokes are less obvious to the audience, but they become apparent with their emphasized moments in the filming.

However, a greater and easier source of cheap laughs is a constant proclivity for pop culture references. There are references to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ocean’s Eleven and even one from Reservoir Dogs.

In fact, the whole fixation on a video game from the 1980’s is even a sort of minor homage to Ready Player One. Luckily the film doesn’t revolve around these otherwise it would get tiresome too quickly.

Still, if you like team movies, then this might work for you. It’s hardly a blockbuster, but it is a fun little film that pays testament to the power of nerdiness, regardless of what country where it can be found.

Visit watchpolybiusheist.com for screening details.
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