Rick Weider (François Arnaud) is on the verge of losing his radio show when he comes up with a publicity stunt to save his job and capture big ratings. Broadcasting live from a box in the middle of New York’s Times Square, Rick tries to break the 11-day world record for staying awake to raise money for charity. His stunt is hijacked by a deranged called who threatens to kill him if he falls asleep and as sleep deprivation sets in, Rick struggles to tell fact from fiction.
Peter Bishal’s Rapid Eye Movement is pitched as an adrenaline-fuelled thriller and the trailer certainly made it look like a fresh take on the Colin Farrell classic Phonebooth. With an interesting, if not wholly original premise, at the centre, the film should be a thrill-ride full of nail-biting moments and high on tension. Unfortunately it’s a formulaic and quite anaemic thriller where the stakes don’t really rise and the pace is far too slow.
The setting of Times Square works well for the film and there should have been an interesting story to tell here based around what people are willing to do for fame and success. Once the deranged caller comes in, threatening to kill Rick, the interesting parts of the premise go out the window and what you’re left with is a series of Rick hallucinating (or is he?) as sleep deprivation takes hold and his behaviour starts to alarm those around him, who dismiss his rantings as those of a person on the verge of going crazy.
There’s a talented cast leading the film who quite frankly deserve better. François Arnaud is a great leading actor but even he struggles with the material here. There are attempts by Bishal and co-writer Brennan Smith to round out the character of Rick but he still never feels more than surface deep. Chloe Brooks plays Rick’s neglected wife Kathy, who is desperate to work through their issues but feels Rick is more interested in his career than her. They share a handful of scenes together but there’s zero chemistry there and Brooks misses the nuances of her character.
The rest of the cast is wasted. Reiko Aylesworth is given next to nothing to do as Charlene Johnson and Stelio Savante, who was great in last year’s The Cleaning Lady, is equally under-used. All of the supporting characters serve only to naysay at Rick’s ramblings and none of them get any kind of development to make you want to invest.
Rapid Eye Movement is a missed opportunity. This could have been a fun, low-key thriller that made the most of its low budget. The ropey special effects could be forgiven if the film was gripping but sadly it’s not. The premise should have ensured this was a silly but fun watch and unfortunately it never rises above average. The pace will be too slow for some and the lack of tension, in a film that should be driven by it, makes this one to miss rather than seek out.
Cast: François Arnaud, Reiko Aylesworth, Chloe Brooks, Godfrey, Stelio Savante, Brian Reddy Director: Peter Bishal Writers: Peter Bishal, Brennan Smith Certificate: Unrated Duration: 108 mins Released by: Octane Entertainment Buy Rapid Eye Movement