April 6th, 2017 - Review by Mark Schwab
Writer/director Miguel Garzon Martinez's indie feature film THE BROKEN LEGACY is not an easy one to classify genre-wise. We meet Steven (Michael Stahler), an idealistic and passionate would-be screenwriter who checks himself in to a very questionable medical facility as a human guinea pig, testing a new cholesterol drug. Steven figures not only will he get paid but he'll have zero distractions so he can pound out the first draft of his masterpiece.
It isn't long before two major distractions come at Steven fast and furious in the form of fellow guinea pigs. There's Emily (Rayne Bidder) who makes Steven instantly smitten with her easy smile and Tomas (pronounced toe-MAS and played by Marcos Esteves) who waxes philosophical about life and women and offers to help Steven get Emily if he can be part of Steven's screenwriting adventure. Within this medical facility (more like a fallacy), the subjects are cut off from the outside (no phones or internet) and given strict guidelines about what they eat and when they take their pills so naturally suspicion and paranoia begin to take hold.
THE BROKEN LEGACY is very ambitious and sets its sites high. This is good in that it does have an original concept and I appreciated the attempt at creating something different. However, it also struggles sometimes as it juggles too many moods and ideas causing some plot points to be diluted and even completely forgotten. The best parts for me filmmaking-wise were when Martinez ramps up the suspense around the shady facility - these sequences are superbly shot and edited creating some genuine menace. When it tries to focus on the love story and the screenwriting subplots, it becomes much more conventional and standard. It made me wish he had developed the mystery storyline more since there is a ton of potential there and the direction is strong and confident.
The two lead performances are undeniably good though and carry the film through its rougher spots. Stahler's screenwriter and Esteves' philosopher are perfectly performed and developed characters, rising far beyond a typical indie feature film. Especially Esteves who reminded me of that wonderful turn by Chazz Palminteri in Woody Allen's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY - a goombah on the surface but there is much more going on behind those eyes and Stahler projects youth and idealism without ever being annoying or stupid. When the two of them are on-screen together, the movie works best. When it veers into the love story, it slows down and the supporting characters have much less to work with although the entire cast is solid and do their jobs well enough.
Miguel Garzon Martinez does show talent here and while the plot and story wobble at times, THE BROKEN LEGACY has enough to recommend it because of the good cast and the unusual set up. It works hard to avoid convention but still manages to be coherent which is not easy to do. I think Martinez learned a lot making THE BROKEN LEGACY, setting up a strong next feature. I look forward to it.