Nick Stahl has been acting since he was a teenager (Man Without A Face) but we don’t see much of him. He’s been rather choosy lately, and his latest, the mental institution thriller On The Inside, gives us a bit of everything: mystery, romance, thriller, indie introspection. And in the end, you’ll be scratching your head and examining your heart as you consider what D.W. Brown’s movie was all about.
Allen (Stahl) goes to a mental institution for killing the wrong man, and finds himself dealing with the violence of other patients there. He meets the spacey Ben (the always quirky Pruitt Taylor Vince) and the ultra-violent Carl (Dash Mihok), who both influence his worldview inside the hospital. But he also meets the lovely Mia (Olivia Wilde) and the one institutional worker who seems capable of caring and support, Tom (the Roots’ Tariq Trotter). Most of the institutional overview is negative, the result of apathy and budget cuts, and the inmates basically police themselves.
While Allen is working his way through feelings for Mia, and jostling for identity with Carl and Ben, we’re seeing flashbacks to an earlier violent incident as well as the murder which caused him to be locked up. He’s wrong on both counts, and I’m reminded of Cain versus Abel (and we know how that went). Allen might’ve had “cause” to do what he did, but he didn’t have the “right.” His misplaced anger gets him to where he is.
So this is about anger management and avoiding revenge, right? It’s hard to tell. (Spoiler here) Because the actions that allow us to see Allen’s redemption are the same types/kinds of things which caused him to cross the line before. So, it’s not really about changing the mode or the method but rather the timing of when Allen can forcefully use his rage.
Moody, dark, and sometimes provocative, On the Inside is an interesting character study, but in the end, it doesn’t necessarily make a point. Which is similar to the high definition here: there are few special features (commentary) or reasons for Blu-ray. But you might rent it if you like Vince, Wilde, or Stahl.