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Broken Vessels


Broken Vessels

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Morality tales about drug users tend to fall into one of two categories: hectoring after-school specials and amoral shockers. It's nice to see a movie like Broken Vessels, then, which strikes a nice balance between the two extremes. Co-written and directed by Scott Ziehl, Broken Vessels could send defensive EMS spokespeople into a tizzy. Jason London attempts to outrun his dark past by relocating to L.A., where he gets a job as an ambulance driver. Unfortunately, he's teamed up with the charismatic Todd Field (seen lately in Eyes Wide Shut), who spends as much time drinking, whoring, and doing drugs as he does helping people in trouble. Soon enough, London is smoking heroin on the job alongside his new partner, but though Field is able to divorce his personal behavior from his lifesaving duties, London is torn between his escalating drug addiction and his responsibilities as a paramedic. Like Clerks set in an ambulance, with serious doses of hardcore drug use thrown in, Broken Vessels is both funny and tragic, with London progressing plausibly from naive experimentation to disaster and the drugs (and druggies) depicted in an appropriately banal fashion. Ziehl does a good job, especially considering that most of his movie is set in an ambulance, and his realistic reenactments of accident sites and police work look like they're lifted right out of Cops. The film's morality is suitably ambiguous, though by the inevitably downbeat conclusion, it's pretty clear which side of the fence Ziehl is on. With Scorsese's own ambulance-driver movie on the way, Broken Vessels won't have much time to make a name for itself, but it's worth seeking out.