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Review: Impulsive free-for-all ‘Urge’ masquerades as a thriller but doesn’t get high enough

Pierce Brosnan stars in the movie "Urge."
(Jeff Neumann / Lionsgate Premiere)

A pushy young tech multimillionaire and his circle of vapid pals discover the ultimate designer drug in “Urge,” a stylish thriller that raises the question of what happens when shallow, self-centered folks lose their inhibitions. The answer? They go from insufferable to dangerous.

Danny Masterson stars as Neal, a man used to buying whatever he wants — including the attention of the old friends he invites to his island mansion for a weekend free-for-all. Justin Chatwin is Neal’s buddy Jason, an impulsive free spirit who has a habit of making wild nights even crazier.

The gang calls on Jason to hook them up with the titular “urge,” a neon-blue inhalant sold by a demonic fop played by Pierce Brosnan (who seems to be the only one in the cast having any fun). Because Jason’s already super-chill, the drug doesn’t have the same effect on him that it does on his friends, all of whom spend the next few days indulging their deepest, darkest desires.

It’s hard to say exactly what director Aaron Kaufman and screenwriter Jerry Stahl had in mind with “Urge.” The story has the structure of an old-fashioned Z-movie cautionary tale, where a cackling force of evil pushes soul-sucking dope onto a bunch of wanton, short-sighted libertines. But what’s the warning, exactly? Don’t take nonexistent super drugs from dapper British character actors?

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The main selling point in “Urge” is the scenes of our doped-up heroes enjoying the freedom to be themselves. They sleep with whomever they like, say all the terrible things to their friends that they’ve been repressing for years and succumb to every violent thought that enters their heads.

Kaufman spends much of the last half-hour of the film showing the still-sober Jason wandering through a resort community that’s become an urge-damaged, blood-soaked hellscape. But that’s really all there is to the plot: We meet a bunch of good-looking jerks and then watch them tear each other apart.

The lack of any likable characters ultimately undoes “Urge.” Kaufman and Stahl have made a classic party-throwers mistake: overrating the entertainment value in watching other people get high.

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‘Urge’

MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual behavior, drug use and language throughout

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8, Burbank; also on VOD

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