Movies that are based on or around youtube personalities usually, for lack of a better word: suck. They’re awful, they’re terrible, and only mostly just vanity projects for the creators. So imagine what a shock it was to see “Ashens and the Polybius Heist” and find out that it’s actually quite good. I genuinely giggled during most of the film and loved how it all felt like a hilarious mutant amalgam of “Spaced,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” and “The Hot Rock,” in the end.
For those unaware, Polybius is a classic video game urban legend. Allegedly in the eighties, a mysterious arcade game known as Polybius began popping up around arcades in America. They began giving its players horrible nightmares, illnesses, and caused them to perform horrendous acts. After some complaints the arcade was seized by the government which was thought to be a psychological experiment. In “Ashens and the Polybius Heist” collector Stuart Ashen is anxious to get his hands on a machine of the mythical video game, and collects a team of misfits—erm—experts to help him achieve his goal. Along the way tables are turned, relationships are revealed, and Ashens has to figure out how to keep his teammates from getting killed.
Directed and co-written by Riyad Barmania, “Ashens and…” is a sequel and based around the popular youtube personality of the same name. I know this mainly because I subscribe to Ashens and find his channel to be quite entertaining. As for the movie, it’s less based around knowing his channel and more around the substance of the film as a whole. The narrative is great, and I love how it all comes full circle in the end with a bizarre but satisfying climax. Ashens pokes fun at fan culture while also celebrating what makes it so fun, with so many instances of rabid geeks wreaking havoc on him. The Polybius is a classic maguffin used as window dressing for Ashens’ plot to steal it.
The how and whys are very gradually unveiled leading in to a film with a shocking amount of heart. Don’t be fooled, though. “Ashens and…” is primarily a heist comedy (Stuart Ashens does a great job leading his cast), and it’s a briskly paced and very funny one that puts the spotlight on a gallery of fascinating and hysterical characters. The ensemble works beautifully off of one another, and in a scene that reminded me of “Shaun of the Dead” we get a run down of what the heist entails, and the disastrous consequences that can inevitably arise. “Ashens and the Polybius Heist” is a great heist comedy that will garner some belly laughs, and suck you in with its engaging array of characters. I strongly recommend it, even if you’re not a gamer or youtube viewer.