Addiction (2003) Movie Review

In “Addiction”, Frank Franconeri plays Bobby, a mild-mannered fellow with an idyllic life in the suburbs, a loving wife who isn’t shy about giving oral sex, and a nice white-collar job in a nice shiny office building. But Bobby’s life is forever altered after a chance encounter with a mugger ends with the mugger dead and Bobby, who killed the mugger in self-defense, feeling exhilarated and extremely confused by the exhilaration. With the mugger’s knife still in his possession, Bobby begins to go on nightly jaunts in the city, seeking out homeless victims to shank. All the while, his life is falling apart, he’s getting visits from his younger self, and he’s begun fantasizing about sex with the well-endowed secretary.

The above premise makes “Addiction” quite intriguing, and why not? It’s an excellent idea for a movie. When it comes to execution, the film works well for its first 40 minutes or so, but things seem to fall apart about the same time writer Joshua Nelson treats us to his character Frankie “shooting up” in his apartment, as Frankie’s junkie girlfriend begs for a share. The scene comes across as more filler material than anything necessary. After all, it’s readily obvious Nelson’s script is making parallels between Bobby’s descent into blood-craze and a junkie’s crippling need for drugs. Frankie’s scenes with Bobby, confined to Bobby’s office, would have sold the parallel just as well, if not better.

The fact is, the movie should have been confined to Bobby as he struggles to come to terms with his growing addiction and his need to understand what is driving him to continually kill. Aside from the Frankie tangents, we also get another subplot involving a recently fired waitress who ponders a second career as a street hooker in order to make ends meat. Again, many scenes with the ex-waitress are not necessary. The movie would have worked much better had it confined itself to the immediate world of Bobby and Bobby’s growing problem. After a while, I almost forgot what the movie was about.

And maybe it’s because “Addiction” fails to maintain immediacy with its leading character that explains why the film loses much of the steam it built up in the aftermath of Bobby killing the mugger. There are a lot of other missed opportunities in “Addiction”, many of which stems from no-follow through involving the script’s better ideas. The mugger, who shows up in spirit form to taunt Bobby, should have returned sooner than the second appearance he makes at the film’s conclusion. Why not keep the spirit constantly with Bobby, nudging him onto the road to ruins like a devil on one shoulder? Also, the inclusion of the Young Bobby is a good idea, but unfortunately the boy can’t act. Still, it was a good idea.

“Addiction” has, at its core, an inspired idea for a movie, and the leading turn by Frank Franconeri (who last showed up in the slaughterfest that was “Nikos the Impaler”) makes the film worthwhile. But because Franconeri is so good in the role, it makes the movie’s many detours into junkie Frankie territory all the more frustrating. With the audience invested with watching Bobby’s continued descent, why not keep the movie focused on Bobby? Even though Bobby’s wife, Lisa, is mostly a non-entity throughout the film (owing in no small part to a weak actress), I would still have preferred to see their interactions instead of watching two actors pretending to be drug dealers, or writer Joshua Nelson doing his best “goombah” impression. Drama school “exercises” belong in drama school exercises, kiddos.

There’s a lot to like about “Addiction”, most of which stems from star Frank Franconeri’s intense portrayal of Bobby, a man trapped in a dark place that he’s not entirely sure he cares to leave. Director James Tucker manages some interesting shots, but for the most part the movie can’t quite escape its low-budget roots. The film looks like it was shot with digital video, or perhaps 16MM, but I can’t be certain. Also, I never really understood what Bobby did for a living, or why his office floor only has two other workers, not counting Trish the flirtatious secretary and the female boss.

“Addiction” is worth a peek, if just for Franconeri’s excellent performance. It has an interesting premise going in, but the script takes too many liberties with the audience’s time, expecting us to find everyday minutiae involving a junkie and his girlfriend, and the contemplations of a laid off waitress, to be rewarding. And while the waitress and junkie Frankie does affect the movie’s final outcome, I’m not entirely sure their many scenes can be justified when all is said and done.

Finally, why wasn’t “Addiction” darker and more somber in tone? The film seems to sometimes forget its own subject matter. By the second half, the drama with junkie Frankie and the drug dealers had gotten much more serious; meanwhile, Bobby’s growing addiction to going around shaking homeless people began to approach black comedy.

James Tucker (director) / Joshua Nelson (screenplay)
CAST: Frank Franconeri …. Bobby
Mim Granahan …. Lisa
Lydia Fiore …. Ruthie
Joshua Nelson …. Frankie
Brenda Hattingh …. Jenny

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