An urban legend about a 1980s government-run psychology experiment involving a mind-controlling video game lays the foundation for “Ashens and the Polybius Heist,” a delightfully goofy comedy from director Riyad Barmania. Rumor has it that sinister men in suits would place the game into arcades and if a player got the high score, they’d fall into a euphoric trance. The film puts a modern spin on the story, turning it into a nerdy “Ocean’s 11” style heist as a group of misfits join together in an attempt to hunt down the game and finally learn the truth after it’s revealed there may be a connection between the myth and Ashens’ (Stuart Ashen) long-lost father.
This is a movie that’s made by geeks, for geeks, and starring geeks. It was obviously crafted with a small budget, but the production values are quite polished. If not for the lack of any big name movie stars, you’d swear this was a major studio film. The offbeat cast includes a bevy of affable nerds, including UK comedian and YouTube legend Ashen and Twitch gaming star Daniel “NerdCubed” Hardcastle. These characters are underdogs that you want to hang out with, and you’ll be rooting for them to succeed — no matter how ridiculous their plan sounds. Throw in a slick directing job from Barmania, and all of these elements lend a whole lot of credibility to this cool little low budget indie.
Silly wordplay and sight gags dominate the humor, and there’s a lot of both. For instance: while putting together the heist crew, Ashens proclaims the need for a “Grease Man” who can maneuver into tight areas. Upon hearing this, one of the gang recruits a non-English speaking man from Greece. (Snort!) If you’re the kind of person who thinks jokes like that are hilarious, you’re going to love this movie.
The film’s nerdiness is charming, and the heist itself doesn’t disappoint. Aimed squarely at the Comic-Con set, “Ashens and the Polybius Heist” is a feel-good, oh-so-geeky story that delivers an abundance of fun and laughs.