"Mind's Eye," an independent film written and directed by Alex Vigano, is a dilemma film.
Ordinarily, I rest upon my lofty opinion that budget is only a modest consideration when it comes to critiquing films, wide release or independent.
I've had a very few films that felt to me as if they truly commanded a larger budget in order to truly fulfill the director's vision for the film.
Usually, when a film doesn't work it has very little to do with budget and much more to do with an unimaginative director, a weak cast, poor use of technology or, in the most extreme instances, a sheer lack of talent.
"Mind's Eye" is different.
"Mind's Eye" features the intelligent and imaginative direction of Alex Vigano, a talented cast and strong tech credits throughout the 99-minute action/thriller.
"Mind's Eye" simply needed more money to fully bring Vigano's vision to life.
"Mind's Eye" works, but if Vigano had possessed a larger budget he'd likely have created a stellar action/thriller rather than merely one of tremendous promise.
"Mind's Eye" circles around Red (Ron Elwell), a young man who lives in the seedy underbelly of Long Beach, California with his even more bad ass brother, Tim (Chris Batstone). The two brothers live their lives on Long Beach's dark side doing whatever it takes to survive and get the job done whether that be drug-running, intimidating dead beats or whatever.
When Red suddenly begins experiencing intense visions, his normally dependable nature becomes increasingly unpredictable and threatens to undermine the financial welfare and close relationship of he and his brother.
What are these intense visions?
Unable to confide in anyone, Red struggles to make sense of his most prominent vision- seeing through the eyes of a brutal murderer methodically stalking his prey.
Eventually, as the secret begins to unfold, "Mind's Eye" begins to reveal itself and this action/thriller becomes an increasingly intense, graphic and captivating game of cat-and-mouse between Red, his brother and this mysterious psychological intruder.
Winner of the Best Feature Drama at the Hollywood East Film Festival earlier this year, "Mind's Eye" is an intelligent, beautifully photographed and well acted psychological thriller hindered only by its obviously modest budget that causes certain scenes to lose their impact and, as a result, occasionally lessen the film's built in suspenseful nature.
As Red, Ron Elwell does a nice job of portraying the conflicted man's struggle to balance the life he's always lived with his increasingly fragile psyche'. There were scenes, especially as Red's psychological vulnerability intensified, where I found myself wondering if perhaps Batstone and Elwell shouldn't have switched roles. Elwell has a natural intensity about him, a disciplined presence that may have been more suited to Batstone's more spontaneous, combustible presence. This becomes less of an issue as the film progresses and both men begin a psychological descent.
Arguably, Batstone is given the more expressive of the two characters and he definitely makes the most of it. Batstone's Tim travels from volatile to vulnerable, ruthless to relentless, mysterious to murderous with equal vigor and intensity. There's a reason that the two actors, along with Keith Birkfeld, are all labeled as "lead actors." This truly is a strong trio of leading performances.
With the exception of the occasionally unconvincing "vision" scenes, "Mind's Eye" is a beautifully photographed film by Director of Photography John Tulin, who manages to capture both the beauty and seediness of Long Beach, California. Other tech credits are generally solid, though one can't help but wish for a more balanced audio mix as the film's low budget occasionally causes a bit of an echo in the vocals.
An intelligent and imaginative film, "Mind's Eye" is a promising action/thriller from writer/director Alex Vigano and the rest of his cast and crew. Despite the obvious limitations that come with working on low-budget indies, Vigano has constructed an involving and memorable psychological thriller that will have you remembering its images and language long after the film's final credits roll.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic