This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Psychological films can definitely be good but this one didn’t do the trick. I knew almost right away that it wasn’t going to be very good but from there it just kept on getting worse and worse. Throw in a pretty awful ending and that’s really a wrap. There may have been some potential here but ultimately films where someone is stuck in a prison or an asylum rarely turn out to be good.
The movie starts off with Randle being admitted to the psychiatric ward for the insane. He’s basically faking it because this way he doesn’t have to go outside and do hard labor while he serves out his sentence. Everyone around him is truly insane but he’s fine with that and figures he will still have his fun. Nurse Ratched doesn’t appreciate this though and is determined to break him in the same way that she has broken everyone else. It will be a battle of wills but she does have a big advantage over Randle because people don’t have a lot of rights while within the facility. This means that she effectively has cart blanche to do whatever she wants with him. Not exactly the position you want to put yourself in right?
Well you’d think that but surprisingly it turns out that most of the prisoners are here by choice. Yes that’s right. They can actually walk out anytime they want to but they feel more secure in this facility. It’s pretty wild and as you can imagine Randle is definitely shocked to hear this. The problem is that Randle actually isn’t here willingly at this point because he acted too convincingly in showing everyone that he’s crazy. So ironically it is most imperative that he leaves now but at this point he’s already in deep. He wants to find a way to bring the rest of his friends out with him but to do that he has to convince them that they already have the bravery and skills needed to make it on the outside. It’s a good speech but can he really convince them of this in time?
Randle’s character is the most entertaining one in the movie to be sure but at the same time it’s not like you can really call him a great time. He bribes guards, likes to have one night stands and is generally a bad influence to everyone around him. He believes in living life to the fullest and doing whatever he wants but of course that isn’t really the best kind of lifestyle long term. It’ll catch up to him some day and all of the characters know it. Unfortunately Randle takes too long to really make his move and is easily baited. Letting his instincts run wild all the time is really the cause for why things don’t go very well for him in the end. His whole ending is just super tragic the whole time. He goes through a whole lot and ultimately there isn’t really a shining light at the end of the tunnel for him. It’s just as bleak at the end as it was at the start, honestly much more so even.
There are quite a number of people in the asylum with Randle but the two biggest ones were Billy and the Chief. The Chief is a very quiet guy who initially seems to be mostly braindead as he can’t understand anything but as the film goes on Randle i able to get to him more. It’s always nice to have someone strong by your side. The film also deals with the themes of freedom and how if you’re trapped in your own body then that’s the worst feeling at all. It deals with the ending and that was still not a great way to show the message. I feel like you have to find a way to hope that it’s possible to cure someone instead of just bumping him off. I understand the action though. If I was going to be vegetable then I’d probably want to be taken out too so I’m not trapped but it’s definitely something you hope you never have to really even think about.
Then there is Billy who was probably the most ready to listen to Randle from the start. He has a big stutter which is why he’s in here but otherwise he’s mainly normal. The guy can reason and think just like anyone else. Billy just lacks confidence but is otherwise as normal as anyone else. He’s definitely someone who should have left sooner than later. Honestly they all should have really gotten out of there because it was clear from the jump that Ratched did not have their best interests at heart. She just wanted power and control. She definitely got those things here.
Ratched makes for an intense villain. I like how she really tries to hide this and act normal but you know what’s up the whole time. She has a bit of a nefarious air about her and definitely leaves no room for compassion or mercy. But that’s what makes her a good villain. She isn’t half hearted at all and is just determined to be as antagonistic as possible. You don’t always see a whole lot of villains like that. Her fights with Randle were the best part of the film but of course it was always one sided just by nature of their positions within the hospital. At the end of the day it’s not like he can seriously defy her after all. When he gets out of line she’ll just have him tortured.
That’s ultimately what makes this film a swing and a miss which is that it’s never fun. Characters are always either being tortured, beat up, or humiliated. You’re constantly reminded that there is no hope for them as long as they stay within the asylum and unfortunately most of them can’t function very well outside of the asylum either. So what you have here is a lose-lose situation. Then the ending goes for a very grim dark approach. The dialogue is very rarely entertaining outside of Randle and Ratched and this is a very dialogue heavy film so you can see how that would quickly become a problem.
Overall, The film is tackling a sub genre that isn’t explored a whole lot with the asylums but that’s probably for the best. It feels like these films never end up being all that great and so in the end you’re better off just skipping it entirely. It’s not a film that leaves you feeling all happy inside and instead you’re just wishing that you could have seen Randle break everyone out early so the rest of the film could be about the characters learning how to survive on their own. It would have been a much better experience than this mean spirited title.