Urge (2016) poster

Urge (2016)


USA. 2016.


Director – Aaron Kaufman, Screenplay – Jerry Stahl, Story – Guy Busick, Aaron Kaufman & Jason Zumwalt, Producers – Yoram Barzilai, Eric Gold, Warren T. Goz, Aaron Kaufman, Andrew Mann, Danny Masterson, Mark Neveldine & Skip Williamson, Photography – Lyle Vincent, Music – The Newton Brothers, Visual Effects Supervisor – Brian Dinoto, Visual Effects – Nice Shoes Creative Studio & Terminal VFX (Supervisor – Yevgen Skorobogatko), Special Effects Supervisor – Drew Jiritano, Production Design – Chris Stull. Production Company – Lionsgate Premiere/Grindstone Entertainment Group/Sculptor Media/Raven Capital Management/Green-Light International.


Justin Chatwin (Jason), Danny Masterson (Neil), Ashley Greene (Theresa), Pierce Brosnan (The Man), Alexis Knapp (Joey), Nick Thune (Danny), Chris Geere (Vick), Bar Paly (Denise), Eric Davis (The Red Bastard)


Neil, a wealthy entrepreneur in New York City, takes a group of his four best friends and his personal assistant Theresa over to his house on Eastman Island for the weekend. On the island, they are also joined by Neil’s drifter brother Jason. That night, they head to the island’s exclusive nightclub. Jason is selected by the mysterious club owner The Man as the one of the group to be given the drug Urge, although is warned that it should only be used once. The drug appears to have no effect on Jason but the others ignore the warning and take more. Jason comes around in the morning to find that Neil has invited everybody at the club back to his place. Everybody is taking Urge and the situation rapidly spirals out of control as the drug allows people to give in to whatever thoughts and desires are in their head, resulting in wanton violence, murder and madness all across the island.

Urge is the directorial debut of Aaron Kaufman who previously had notable credits working as a producer on Robert Rodriguez films such as Machete Kills (2013) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014). His work subsequent to this has been in documentary, including the Sean Penn co-directed Superpower (2023) about the Ukraine war.

Urge is the sort of film where you hate the self-absorbed protagonists from the point they are introduced. I wasn’t entirely sure whether Urge was going to be a horror film or not but it is almost a case of you welcoming it being a slasher so you can see them sliced and diced from about the opening scene where Danny Masterson does a bored millennial and simply walks out on his own board meeting who are pressing him for answers to urgent matters to the arrival on the island where they toss around lines like “Are you still on that fixed income desk at Merrill?” or “This is not going to be another weekend where I play punching bag to a whole bunch of over-privileged One-Percenters.” (I mean, are there really people out there that talk like that in real life?) And when it comes to the scenes in the club, which are all slickly edited montages of flashing lights and writhing bodies, Urge becomes a film that shows its true colours as all provocative tease but zero substance.

This leads to the second half where the drug creates mass insanity not unakin to one of the films that derive from The Crazies (1973) – see the likes of Impulse (1984), The Signal (2007), Nine Miles Down (2009), Salvage (2009), YellowBrickRoad (2010), Mayhem (2017), Mom & Dad (2017) and The Sadness (2021) (For a more detailed listing see Films About Mass Insanity). Here the use of Urge becomes rampant around the island where improbably it seems that every single person present is taking it (in any real situation, the actual percentage of people willing to experiment with narcotics is fairly low – NIDA estimates only 9.4% of the American population use an illegal substance in the average month – so you would expect a number well over 50% of the population not to imbibe) and we get images of the island descending into chaos and madness.

The Man (Pierce Brosnan) offers the drug Urge at the nightclub in Urge (2016)
The Man (Pierce Brosnan) offers the drug Urge at the nightclub

Most of these scenes are cliche ones of people acting crazy. There is the odd one that has some effect – like where Justin Chatwin is talking to a security guard about the situation and a random person comes up, grabs the guard’s gun and shoots him in the head right in front of Chatwin. Others fall into thee downright laughable – Ashley Greene’s laughably tame S&M humiliation of Danny Masterson; or the scene where she is about to be stoned in front of a bonfire and tries to persuade a ranting Nick Thune that he needs a queen.

What does Urge in completely is one of the most ridiculous twist endings that one has ever come across in a film. [PLOT SPOILERS] It is signposted heavily throughout – quotes from John Milton, a ship named Megiddo – and in the final scenes Justin Chatwin finds out that Pierce Brosnan is actually God and that distributing Urge and causing mass chaos is all part of His plan. The final shot of the film is of a ship filled with the drug heading from the island to the big city. Justin Chatwin is giving some kind of faux moral choice to join in. Quite how having the whole world go mad en masse by consuming a designer drug ties in to a divine plan for humanity is beyond me.

You get the clear impression that Pierce Brosnan needed to take the job to pay an overdue tax bill or some such. His scenes at the club have a sleazy glitz like some kind of aging drug kingpin and give us the novelty of God played as a cheap B-movie villain.

Trailer here

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