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‘Relaxer’ (review)

Produced by Ashley Young
Written and Directed by Joel Potrykus
Starring Joshua Burge, David Dastmalchian,
Andre Hyland, Adina Howard, Amari Cheatom


Whew. This is a tough one.

Just to be upfront, I recommend this film.

But it ain’t no popcorn-muncher; as in, please don’t eat while watching this film.

Relaxer opens with two brothers, obviously part of a dysfunctional family, in the middle of a “challenge”, in order to keep the unemployed Abner (aka Abbie) with a roof over his head.

This is 1999, leading up to the scary Y2K phenomenon.

He needs to keep playing a video game while downing semi-spoiled milk in 3 minute increments, with no bathroom breaks, etc.

It’s a grisly opening to a film that only gets more revolting.

Soon, scumbag older brother challenges slacker younger brother to a challenge to beat a video game master’s best: get to level 257 of Pac-Man, and he’ll win $100,000.

Dude accepts and sleazy brother exits.

The deal is, no getting off the couch, no bathroom breaks, you have til 1/1/2000.

So, Abbie sits on the couch, attacking the challenge, over months, without ever leaving said couch, encountering a handful of characters and events along the way.

Joshua Burge, looking for all the world like a slimy slacker version of Buster Keaton, is aces as Abbie.

He strikes a nice balance between helpless wimpiness and determination to win.

Still, when his idiot “friend” Dallas comes over, duct-taping two 2 liter bottles to his hands to make a point, Relaxer really gets tired and stupid.

There were several times throughout in fact that I wanted to turn the film off, due to the annoyance of the lead character being such a passive waste and taking the BS from his brother and friends. Yech.

Then something interesting happens. A character or two appears to be sympathetic.

Abbie puts on his 3D glasses, which seem to have some kind of power.

I have some quibbles: a major issue is never addressed regarding bodily needs during the challenge. Also, there are many stretches when he’s obviously not playing Pac-Man, but we hear the game in the background.

Not sure if this is commentary or oversight, but it IS annoying.

Lots of bodily fluids spray about, but the whole film is redeemed by the climax.

It’s partially derivative of a 70s cult classic, but the climax is still incredible, and makes up for a lot, and renders Relaxer a minor gem.


Relaxer arrives in theaters on March 22nd.


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