Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Directors: Charles de Lauzirika
Stars:: Josh Lawson, Emma Lung, Ron Perlman, Edward Furlong
Running time: 113 minutes
Score: 8/10

Merely five minutes into writer-director Charles de Lauzirika's feature film debut, Crave, it becomes quite clear that he's a big fan of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Take the film's opening line , which immediately evokes the narration heard in Scorsese's dark 1976 character study: "You look into the mirror and you realize you're going to Hell."

A probing, unflinching look into one man's gradually shattering, mad-at-the-world psyche, Crave presents a modern-day Travis Bickle in its antiheroic protagonist Aiden, played with disarming charisma and undeniable skill by Josh Lawson. He's a crime scene photographer who, when he's not daydreaming about gruesomely murdering both outright scumbags and people who innocently annoy him, spends his mental energy thinking about the beautiful but complicated girl next door, Virginia (the radiant and gifted Emma Lung). As things with Virginia head downhill and his attempts to brings those vengeance-seeking fantasies to life backfire, Aiden descends into an abyss of self-doubt, reluctant criminality, and murder.

No matter how big of a Taxi Driver admirer de Lauzirika may be, though, his unique sensibilities and storytelling talents give the engrossing and strongly made Craveits own identity. Wisely, de Lauzirika opts for the anti-Bickle disposition and writes Aiden as a seemingly normal, friendly, and all-around nice guy whose hidden demons overshadow his better attributes; Lawson, to his credit, embodies the character's intriguing duality from beginning to end, in a front-and-center performance that, if there's any justice whatsoever in Hollywood, will lead to bigger roles.

Yet perhaps Lawson doesn't need to seek work in the glossier big studio system, if formidable, first-time, independent filmmakers like de Lauzirika are calling. With moments of tension-breaking comedy that are genuinely funny and numerous shocks punctuated by clever misdirection, Crave signals the arrival of an attention-demanding filmmaker who's schooled in the down and dirty noir tropes of old but possesses more than enough ingenuity to avoid copycat status.

Keep tabs on Crave folks, as the film navigates its way through the indie distribution system—it's an unexpected triumph.

Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)