Review | Ashens and the Polybius Heist

Review | Ashens and the Polybius Heist


When Ashens learns about the fabled Polybius Heist arcade machine, he decides to steal it and recruits a team.

YouTuber, Stuart Ashen, returns to our screens in his second feature length film, Ashens and the Polybius Heist. Even though Stuart has a YouTube following of over 1.5m subscribers, you may not be one of them, so let’s start with a quick potted history.

Stuart Ashen’s YouTube career started when he did a quick review of a PopStation, a cheap LCD game that was moulded in the shape of a Sony PlayStation Portable. From there, Stuart reviewed many other similar cheap LCD games and has expanded his range to a whole variety of cheap ‘tat’. Or as he calls himself, a collector of totally worthless collectables.

In 2013, as part of YouTube’s Geek Week, Stuart released Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild, a full-length feature film that was partly funded by a crowd source campaign.

The film starred Stuart, Red Dwarf’s Robert Llewellyn, Warwick Davis and a host of his fellow YouTube stars and friends in a story that saw him try to seek out the fabled Gamechild, a cheap LCD knock off of the Nintendo Game Boy.

Ashens And The Quest For The Gamechild was originally free to watch via YouTube and received a physical media release of a slightly extended, more polished version.

Despite legal reasons causing the film to be taken down, it has recently been reuploaded back on to Vimeo for a small charge of £3.99. Trust me, this is a small price to pay for such a great film, read my review.

Stuart revealed in 2016 that a sequel film was already in the works and two years later, another successful crowdfunding campaign raised the funds needed to complete the project. Here we are in November 2020 with the release of the finished film, Ashens And The Polybius Heist.


Ashens (Stuart Ashen) and his partner Benny (Eli Silverman)

As the name suggests, this is a comedy heist film with a sense of humour much in line with the likes of the Zucker Brothers (Naked Gun, Airplane), Monty Python and just general silliness.

Polybius Heist has Stuart bring a team together in order to steal the fabled Polybius arcade machine. Urban legend tells of a Polybius arcade machine that was reportedly only ever seen in Portland, Oregon in the early eighties.

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The game supposedly gave the player intense psychoactive and addictive effects. Also, according to the urban legend, the machine was regularly visited by governmental “men in black” who came to download the latest data to assess the arcade machine’s effects on those who played it.

The film opens with a scene introducing Ashens and his business partner, Benny, to the audience as he tries to acquire some worthless tat. After a fantastic Bond-esque animated opening titles with a song entitled “Settle the score” written and composed by Michael Spencer Chapman and sung by James Marsh which nicely mimics Casino Royale’s opening, the film begins.

Benny has been searching through old paperwork and has come across material relating to the fabled Polybius arcade machine. It transpires that Ashen’s father, who left him when he was just a boy, was the lead scientist on the military project.

Ashens wants to find out what really happened to his father and decides to get a gang together in order to try and steal the fabled arcade game. This won’t be a robbery as there is a team involved, this will be a heist!

If you hadn’t of guessed so far, I’m a fan of Stuart Ashen’s work and have been watching his YouTube channel for many years. Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild was not only a very funny film, which I can attest to with a recent viewing in preparation for this sequel, but a group of friends who made a film of a very high, professional quality.

I’m happy to report that director Riyad Barmania, who also was at the helm of the prequel, has created a film that I feel surpasses the original. It’s not only funnier and more entertaining than the original but also looks great as well due to the work of cinematographer, Christian Mario Lohr.


Vocal (Katia Kvinge), The Cube (Daniel Hardcastle) and the ‘grease man’ (Yiannis Vassilakis)

I must confess that when I originally watched Gamechild, I was wondering if a group of YouTubers could act and I needn’t have worried. With Polybius Heist, everyone has bought their ‘A’ game.

Stuart Ashen is surrounded by a great team of talent. Robert Llewellyn, who is better known as Red Dwarf’s mechanoid, Kryten, once again makes a return appearance along with Dan Tomlinson as Geoff Excellence in a smaller supporting role.

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The rest of the crew aren’t as well known to many of you but this doesn’t mean they are any less as funny. Some of my personal highlights include Daniel Hardcastle, better known by his YouTube handle Nerd³, plays The Cube, the tech expert of the team.

Antony Agonist is the villain of the piece and is wonderfully played by Stuart Barter who some of you may remember from the days of Vine (remember that app?) where he was better known as Stuggy.

New Zealand stand-up comic Jarred Christmas is great as the supposedly ‘smooth man’ of the team with Katia Kvinge, the voice, showcasing her amazing vocal skills.

A special mention must go to Yiannis Vassilakis as the ‘grease man’, a character who has probably my wife and I’s favourite joke of the entire film.

My only disappointment was with Barry Lewis as Chef Assistance who only appears in a few scenes. My wife and I love his YouTube cookery channel, and we were hoping for a much larger role.

To be honest, everyone puts in a great appearance be it a large speaking part right down to that of a small cameo. The jokes keep on coming with references to other heist films, pop culture and some downright nerdy jokes in places.


Ashens (Stuart Ashen) comes face to face with hater of all things new, Antony Agonist (Stuart Barter)

Don’t feel alienated by this review, you don’t need to have seen the first film to enjoy this sequel or seen the various YouTube channels of the stars. In a time of lockdown, Ashens and the Polybius Heist is just the kind of non-offensive comedic fun we all need right now.


 

A very funny sequel to the original film, Ashens and the Polybius Heist is a small independent film that is well worth your time.


Ashens and the Polybius Heist is available now from Vimeo for just £5.99.

Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild is also available via Vimeo for just £3.99.

Or you can buy both films for £7.99.  Ashens and the Polybius Heist will also be available via Google Play, iTunes, YouTube and Amazon Prime.

DVDs and Blu-rays of Ashens and the Polybius Heist will be available early 2021.



 



John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.