Broken Vessels

Broken Vessels does so with more of an emphasis on how these ghosts of the past and present stresses can result in a life spiraling out of control

After seeing Bringing Out the Dead, I thought Broken Vessels would be just a B-movie exploring the same themes. I was incorrect. While both films delve into one man’s struggle with his past and the stresses of the present Broken Vessels does so with more of an emphasis on how these ghosts of the past and present stresses can result in a life spiraling out of control.

Jason London plays Tom, on the surface he is a clean-cut young man trying to escape a bad incident in his life by starting fresh in LA. He is an E.M.T. hoping someday to be a paramedic. He wants to save lives and by doing so save himself. He is partnered with Jimmy (Todd Field) the all too wild paramedic that becomes the catalyst to Tom’s downfall.

Jimmy likes to get high on the job. He brings hookers into the ambulance to party and steals from the people he helps. While Tom at first resists his need to be accepted by Jimmy soon snares Tom and the bright-eyed young man is soon a hopeless addict. Tom’s life really begins its downfall when Jimmy introduces him to his speed freak next door neighbor Suzy (Susan Traylor). Tom parties so much that he is soon kicked out of his apartment and moves in with Jimmy. Tom tries to have a relationship with Suzy’s brief roommate Elizabeth (Roxana Zal) but the Seiren call of drugs has too large a hold on Tom. The viewer watches this destruction like one may watch an accident. Appalled by what you see yet powerless to turn away. Broken Vessels won several awards in the top indy film efstivals and after watching you will know why!!

Jason London does an incredible job as the hapless Tom. As he becomes more and more involved with crime and drugs his very body language changes, becoming more like Jimmy. He brings life to a very difficult role. Todd Field as Jimmy walks the fine line between going over the edge and keeping himself under control.

By approaching his role in this manner he realistically portrays how Jimmy must live his life. Traylor’s part of the speed freak neighbor at first seems almost like comic relief but soon shows how desperate drugs have made this young woman. All in all the cast here imparts realism and brutal honesty to very difficult roles.

Scott Ziehl directs the Broken Vessels drama in a manner similar to Scorsese’s Bringing out the Dead. The same methods are used to show the ambulance careening around town yet Ziehl’s direction has a more toned down feel to many of the scenes. He is not so experimental in his use of camera work, set ups and fades which gives an almost documentary feel to the Broken Vessels film. This director does not have much to his credit yet but he has the potential to make it in the world of independent films.

The Broken Vessels disc is from A-Pix which is rapidly becoming an important studio for little know gems like this one. While light on the extras this DVD is heavy on the attention paid to the all important production values. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video transfer is beyond what most small studios seem capable of producing. During the rapid transitions from light to dark no evidence of compression artifacts can be found. The compress is kept to a minimum allowing for a 9.0 average mbps transfer rate. The audio track is Dolby Enhanced Stereo. Still, the sound is full and rich. This film is definitely a keeper.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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