I’m quite the fan of content creator Stuart Ashen. Whilst I was down and out with coronavirus, I found comfort in a man reviewing Poundland tat on a brown sofa. I didn’t realise that, whilst in my fevered state of hallucination, he’d gone ahead and released Ashens and the Polybius Heist, a sequel to the comfortably enjoyable Ashens and the Quest for the Game Child. As releases begin to wane, cancel, and delay themselves, it’s nice to see that there is a bit of quality left in this year, in the form of a film about a collector of tat, looking for an elusive arcade game.
There’s been a slew of heist films these past few years, and this one feels the most comfortable with learning the ropes of such a subgenre. Ashen’s leading performance is superb. He manages to bring the charming personality he has within his YouTube videos to the big screen. Sharp, quintessentially British writing leads to punchy dialogue and effective comedy, which often relies on its set-up being somewhat funnier than the pay-off. There are a couple of dud moments and spoofs, but they’re rounded up with some admirably fun montage moments. Dan Hardcastle of NerdCubed fame is surprisingly good also, he and Ashen share some great chemistry. It’s just everyone in between that has a bit of a wobble, with some less than stellar comedy.
It’s not a badly written or made film by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s a lot of leeway needed for Ashens and the Polybius Heist. It feels relatively light on Ashen, with the ensemble of characters fighting one another for screen time. Yannis’ writing is that nice, throwaway bit of fun that breaks up the story moments, but it’s nice to see that he is in fact an integral part of the story. Everyone is, they all step up to the plate well enough, playing around with some integral mechanisms of the genre. Some moments feel underwhelming, though, characters that disappear without a trace, and a story that smacks of underwhelming prose and rather daft choices.
Love it or hate it, Ashens and the Polybius Heist is proof that the Ashens brand can be adapted in a way that makes it feel completely separate from its YouTube origins. Flashier budgets, more consistency, and a professional sheen that didn’t feel as focused as the first film. Spending time with the Ashens 11 was a good time, nothing heavy or all that memorable, but they offer up some good, wholesome fun. There’ll be nice nods to the first film for those that took the time to watch it, a worthy double bill that has somewhat similar themes, but the arching plot of Ashens and the Polybius Heist feels more focused on humour than relatively tight plot developments.