Plot: Joe (Tony Musante) and his friend Artie (Martin Sheen) are street thugs who take immense pleasure in hassling other people, sometimes in criminal efforts, but also just to have some laughs at the expense of others. As the two harass passersby and head toward the subway, an eclectic assortment of others also venture to the same train. A couple bickers over financial problems, another couple just wants to get their child home, a woman tries to soothe her husband after he loses his temper at a perceived slight, and two young soldiers discuss how to spend their precious time off base. All of these people and more will end up on the same subway car with Joe and Artie, who of course can’t resist stirring up trouble. Given that most have already been put into a bad mood by the previous events of the evening, what will happen when all of these riders are pushed to the limit by the two thugs?
Entertainment Value: The Incident is a dark, aggressive experience that skewers bystander culture and provides a riveting ride from start to finish. The actual subway ride that serves as the film’s core is a wild, memorable set piece, but the journeys taken by the characters to catch the train are also important. Although painted as broad, almost stereotypes, the characters are given room to breathe and establish themselves, which is crucial once the ride begins. This lets us predict how certain characters might react and how such a confrontation might impact them, even if we don’t know a lot about them beyond some basic personality traits. I do think the simplistic portrayals might turn some off from the movie, as there’s not much depth to these roles, but I also think there’s enough to make it work. The movie does make an effort to fill in some light backstories, but there’s only so much time available. Tony Musante is unhinged in the lead role, but still feels believable, just an over the top bully who runs wild, not a cartoonish villain. Martin Sheen is the more reserved of the thugs, but he still has plenty of moments to shine. A deep ensemble fleshes out the supporting cast, with such names as Ruby Dee, Beau Bridges, Brock Peters, Victor Arnold, Thelma Ritter, and Ed McMahon, among others. An intense, always engaging and confrontational experience, The Incident is recommended to anyone who appreciates darker dramas with some social relevance and excellent performances.
No nakedness. Joe has no qualms about abusing women, but the movie steers clear of sexual violence. An odd, but memorable scene involves him forcing one of the male passengers to dance with him, which is an unusual, but effective approach to showing dominance. A little blood, but not much. The movie has a lot of confrontational moments and tense situations, but doesn’t often fall into violence. The threat of violence is an ever present shadow over the entire experience of course, but only a few bursts of violence actually unfold. The violence that does happen is intense and effective, but non graphic and never gratuitous. The dialogue in The Incident is intense and confrontational, with almost constant dysfunction and barely contained emotions, whether from the thugs or those they torment. Musante has a lot of the more incendiary lines and his antagonist presence drives the movie, but the various other passengers have moments to shine, especially before the ride begins. The face off between the feuding couple is quite memorable, as both let loose long buried emotions and turn to light violence. So there’s some wild levels of dysfunction and anti-social behavior in this one, which leads to some interesting dialogue exchanges. As for craziness, this one is fairly grounded, but Musante’s performance and the general dysfunction earn a couple points. Some wild moments unfold, but they seem mostly rooted in believable circumstances.
The Disc: Twilight Time’s new transfer for The Incident looks fantastic, I was surprised at how impressive this presentation looks. The movie uses a rough, unpolished look to bolster realism and that is preserved here, but the clarity and detail level are still quite remarkable. In the extras section, we have a director’s commentary track, isolated music & effects track, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Overall Insanity: 3/10