INVINCIBLE FORCE review by Ezra Stead

To my knowledge, Daniel Schneidkraut’s second feature, Invincible Force, must be the only film ever to have this unique amalgamation of genres attached to its IMDb page: documentary, drama, horror. All of these descriptions are accurate to some degree, and to them I would personally have to add comedy, though it is certainly comedy of the very darkest variety. Schneidkraut’s previous film, Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements, could also be described in much the same way, though it lacks the distinction of any true documentary trappings and is, in fact, a collection of short films tied together by a common thread of suffering. In this way, Invincible Force could be seen as Schneidkraut’s feature film debut, and what a bracingly unique debut it is.

The film’s production alone deserves some ink for its unusual approach. Boasting a budget of exactly zero dollars, Schneidkraut (credited only as Dan S. in the film’s titles) filmed the project over the course of 90 days, “using only outdated technology that was found, borrowed, or stolen.” In addition, lead actor Drew Ailes actually undertook a rigid fitness regimen that lowered his body mass index from .27 to .085, and caused him to lose 35 pounds over the course of the three-month shoot. Though every scene in the film “is meticulously scripted, with not a word or action improvised,” this approach to the filmmaking lends it an uncomfortable feeling of reality, as though it were truly a found video diary of a man’s descent into madness.

Ailes stars as Drew, a paunchy metal-head in his early thirties who has decided to undergo an extreme fitness regimen in order to gain the power and discipline he feels is lacking in his life. At the film’s beginning, he seems relatively happy and comfortable, living with his longtime girlfriend, Amber (Anissa Siobhan Brazill), and regularly hanging out with fellow heavy music enthusiast Chris (Chris Bakke). However, something is clearly wrong with Drew’s interior life, and as he commits himself to his fitness program, all other concerns begin to fall by the wayside, as he ignores calls from his Dad (Paul Reyburn) and begins to alienate Amber and Chris. The film’s dark humor begins to show itself in an inspired scene in which Drew and Amber make love, and Drew begins counting his thrusts as though they were reps in a weight-lifting session.

Though this scene is undeniably funny, and there are many other moments that are as well, the single-mindedness with which Drew pursues his goal of slimming down and making himself more powerful and attractive is also extremely haunting. The slow, steady pace and relatively long running time of the film combine to make it a hypnotic experience, inextricably drawing the viewer into Drew’s disturbed existence by degrees as all other aspects of his life gradually give way to his obsessive transformation. By the time he reaches his darkly comic, unforgettably disgusting nadir, Ailes is practically unrecognizable. Schneidkraut’s filmmaking complements his performance with an equal commitment to austerity, making this the ultimate “anti-mumblecore” film they reportedly set out to make. It is a film that indicts our modern society’s empty worship of physical perfection without preaching or pandering to its audience, instead opting for a humorous touch and a deep, authentic character study of its protagonist.

Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’ Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper and poet who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. For more information, please contact
INVINCIBLE FORCE review by Annie Riordan

Of all the crude, chauvinistic, immature gestures that little men with undersized penises make, my least favorite is the “suck it” gesture. The gesturer in question will flatten both palms, fingers together, as though about to execute a double karate chop. Instead, with pinkies in and thumbs out, the hands will be slammed against the upper thighs, fingers pointing down, forming a crude triangular framing of the genital area, indicating that the recipient of said gesture “suck it.” Why any man who has graduated from grade school thinks this is a cool thing to do is beyond me. It looks silly, implies ignorance and is about as attractive as watching a baboon fling its excrement. But the gesture itself perfectly sums up what Dan Schneidkraut’s “Invincible Force” is all about: insecurity, testosterone, the fragile male ego and the awesomeness of Finnish death metal.

Drew is nothing special, granted. He’s an average Joe living a nondescript life in Minneapolis, but he has a decent job (office janitor), a good friend in fellow pudge-pal Chris, and a sweet girlfriend named Amber, who doesn’t care that he’s overweight, balding and not rich. She loves him for who he is. Unfortunately, Drew himself doesn’t know who he is and doesn’t particularly love himself. The semi-recent death of his mother and a strained relationship with his father seems to have knocked him for more of a loop than even he cares to admit. Perhaps it was his inability to prevent his mom’s death that has forced him to realize that he has no control over any aspect of his life, and if there’s one thing that insecure males crave more than sex, it’s control.

Drew decides to get with The Program, a rigorous 90 day diet and workout regiment which promises to transform him from flabby manboy to ripped and shredded badass. It’s not an easy transition: it’s tiring, nauseating and just plain hard, but Drew sticks with it. Eventually, when the fat begins to recede and the muscle starts to timidly rise to the surface, Drew’s confidence grows. But with the confidence comes the plague of entitlement. He’s worked hard and is seeing results, therefore he deserves rewards. Confidence becomes arrogance.

He dumps Amber for being too fat. He makes fun of Chris for being chunky. He browses the OKCupid dating profiles like a third generation cattle farmer at a heifer judging contest. He constantly talks about erasing the negative influences from his life, not realizing that he is the biggest and most negative obstacle in his own way. Soon, Drew is speaking in a language as foreign to me as Central Siberian Ket. Muscle mass, protein intake, blahblahblah steroidal juicing stuff, etc. With his friends long gone and his job lost, Drew devotes himself entirely to The Program, descending into a dark, lonely world of madness, sports shakes and fiber bars.

My friend and fellow reviewer Chris Hallock referred – respectfully – to Invincible Force as a “damn ugly” movie. He’s right, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. It IS a damn ugly movie, but it’s also subtly brilliant and weirdly, sickeningly funny. It’s not a movie to be enjoyed by any means. Much like Schneidkraut’s previous film “Seeking Wellness” it is a film to be experienced. It’s a cinematic orbitoclast, slamming into your cerebral cortex and knocking loose the dark matter you never really wanted to acknowledge was there. We’ve all known guys like Drew, have wondered what the hell makes them tick and why they’re such oblivious douchebags. “Invincible Force” strives to answer those questions and does a damn awesome – and ugly – job of it. The truth is never pretty, and if there’s one thing that Schneidkraut does well, it’s the Truth, stripped naked and shoved right in your face. I can honestly say that I will never again take a shit without thinking of this film, and if you’re wondering what the hell that means, I implore you to find out for yourselves.

With an awesome soundtrack featuring Finnish band Maveth (oh goody, a new metal band for me to salivate over! and regardless of what Drew says, girls DO listen to metal!) and a cast of real people, Invincible Force is like walking in on your parents while they’re having BDSM sex. It’s icky and uncomfortable and totally unforgivable and – yeah – damn ugly. It needed to be made, and few people would have dared told it the way Schneidkraut does. It’s ugly for a good reason, which just makes the aftermath all the more beautiful.

A man joins a 90-days work-out program and believes to have found a new reason to live. During these 90 days his body goes through changes, but his body isn't the only thing that changes.

Our thoughts:
What we've seen of Daniel Schneidkraut as a director so far is that when he makes a movie it's not just mindless entertainment. It's an experience that requires both thought and concentration. In a way I don't think it matters if you like his films or not as neither "Seeking Wellness" or "Invincible Force" will leave you unaffected, and that seems to be what they are set out to do. They want to shake your comfort zone, even if just a little bit. And they are very successful at that.

This particular experience follows a man, Drew, during 90 days. He has started a 90-days work-out program that forces him to change his life completely and make working out the main priority. What starts out as just a way to better your physique, leads to him losing his girlfriend, his job and his mind. At first this program makes him feel energetic and happy but he lets it take over his entire world, and he just has to live his life by maximum repetitions.

"Invincible Force" and "The Bunny Game" have something in common - they're not completely fiction. In "The Bunny Game" we had the Rodleen Getsic actually endure the torture that her character goes through, and in "Invincible Force" we actually see the real transformation from a slacker to a machine. I don't know the exact details of the film production but basically Drew Ailes actually did the same transformation as his character. I don't know if it was an experiment for the film or if they filmed around the fact that he was doing it. Either way, this is the so called "hook". This is the thing you'll be hearing about and it's what will gain a lot of interest. I know it did for me. But I am also very happy to find out that the movie isn't just that hook, but it actually has a well-written fictional story around it. And yes, make sure you understand that it's not a documentary - it still has a screenplay that it follows and it's a fictional story. Even though Drew's physical transformation is very interesting to follow, it's the way he starts to act that will keep you interested for the full 130 minutes. The way his and other's lives fall apart around him yet he only cares about himself and his body.

I know that "Invincible Force" got to me simply because of how my mood and thought-process changed through the film. I got involved and wasn't just watching it to be entertained. I wanted to see Drew transform into a fit machine, yet I was also fascinated in what a monster he becomes. For the first 30 or so days (within the movie) you sit there thinking "Maybe I should be working out more...". You get inspired and motivated. And then his life slowly starts to fall to pieces (the worst part was when he took down his "Basket Case 2" poster - hey! If working out makes me lose my film interest, I'm out!) and you start seeing a nice guy turn into an asshole. And actually, I have seen this happen in real life too. People can definitely get too involved into something. I don't really remember how far into the movie this is, but let's say it's through the next 30 days. And then by the end you realize he's a total wreck. We don't know what happens to him after these 90 days, but someone is going to die and very likely Drew too.

It's hard not to praise Daniel Schneidkraut and everyone involved for yet again breaking the typical rules and creating something like this. "Invincible Force" is engaging, devastating and absolutely fascinating. Films that get to you like this are worth remembering as they're rare. You don't have to like these films, but you should be able to recognize what they have done. Now, with "Invincible Force" it's not a problem as I think it's a great film. It's experimental in how it's filmed yet very real in how it was created, and to top it all off it has a good fictional story to tell as well and that's a much impressive feat.

Positive things:
- Seeing Drew the character and Drew the "actor" go through the transformation.
- Tells an interesting story of a man wrecking himself when trying to better himself.
- At first I was afraid I'd be bored because of the runtime but it flows really well.
- I'm usually so-so towards death metal in films (it usually comes off as cheesy ways to show your own taste) but in this one it just works well because of Drew's personality.
Negative things:
- It's both positive and negative that it ends on the 90 day mark. It fits perfectly with the film but at the same time we would've wanted to see what happens next.

"Power. Strength. Confidence. Assholery." by Chris Hallock
Daniel Schneidkraut's latest feature, Invincible Force, is a damn ugly movie. I mean that with the utmost respect. Considering the parameters of the premise, it had to be executed in a very specific way. If you've seen last year's brooding, but blackly humorous Seeking Wellness (see Mike's review), you know that his art lies not in the surface aesthetics, but in the ideas being expressed within a lo-fi presentation. There are no gimmicks or tricks here, only long cuts and specific compositions shot in low tech. In Schneidkraut's world, the idea of "cutting edge" isn't expensive equipment, it's the lacerations caused by the ideas. Everything is laid right at your feet, exposed like a freshly opened cadaver. The contents spilling out are insecurity, low self-esteem, depression, cancer, suicide. You know, the things that we all try to repress and ignore, but are still very much a part of wonderful, horrible life. Ugly, beautiful stuff.

This isn't to say that Mr. Schneidkraut isn't thinking visually or to degrade him as a filmmaker or artist. His craft is in tinkering with the framing and subverting expectations while running us through a grinder of emotion. He knows exactly what he's doing even if it's not immediately apparent. Invincible Force is a great follow up to Seeking Wellness in terms of style. Seeking Wellness was broken up into vignettes, all a mixture of nihilism with a whiff of faint hope. Similarly, Invincible Force gives us glimmers of inspiration, only to yank it right from under our noses. It functions as a commentary about body image, masculinity, media, self-improvement, and relationships, but makes no definitive statements about any of them. It's all left up to the viewer how to interpret things. The longer running time of a full length film gives him more time to work us over.


Why did I call Invincible Force ugly? There are many reasons. But first, I need to explain the concept. The story is told from the perspective of Minnesota metalhead Drew (Drew Ailes), an out-of-shape young man who enjoys porn, horror films, video games, and pro wrestling. You know, all the good things in life. He's got a sweet girlfriend named Amber (Anissa Siobhan Brazill), and a buddy Chris (Chris Bakke) who comes over to hang and drink beer. His dead end job isn't exactly stimulating, and it's tough to pay the bills. To top it off, Drew is not on speaking terms with his father. His life isn't necessarily horrible, but he realizes he's just spinning his wheels, on the verge of entering a hopeless arena in his life. He's unhealthy, and with Amber getting a little antsy about the stagnation of their relationship, Drew realizes steps need to be taken to improve a number of things.

Eager to make a change, he takes on a fitness challenge designed to make him a muscular captain-of-his-own destiny in 90 days. He decides to video tape his progress over the full course of the regimen known simply as "The Program". Invincible Force is the documentary chronicling his mission, and we, the sick little voyeurs, get to watch him every step of the way.

Drew discards his  formerly pleasurable obsessions like beer and record collecting in favor of a new one: his own body. Throughout the course of the film, we witness the changes not only in his body, but in his demeanor and attitude. What begins as a means of achieving a healthier, more fulfilling life simultaneously triggers Drew's regression in other ways. Sure, he can do more pushups, has more definition in his arms, and a newfound swagger, but at the same time, he adopts a judgemental attitude toward those closest to him. Impressive martial arts moves and optimum cardiovascular health don't help much with the way he handles relationships. The man gets downright cocky, and it may be too late to realize he's put a lot of important things in jeopardy.


Drew is by no means a professional filmmaker, so Schneidkraut relies on an arsenal of outdated video technology (VHS, VHS-C, Hi8 cameras) and borderline amateurish techniques to piece the story together. This serves two purposes: to provide the utmost realism in keeping with a verite style; and, to keep the budget very low. In fact, according to Schneidkraut, Invincible Force was made for ZERO dollars, using found equipment and materials, and shot mostly within the confines of his own apartment. Regardless of budgetary reasons, a "professional" or slick look would nullify everything Schneidkraut set out to do.

You'd think a two hour film chronicling the exercise routine of a man over 90 days would be dull, right? Not so. Oddly enough, the minimal story, restrained visuals, and lo-fi execution makes for some compelling viewing. Drew takes his camera along with him to work, and we get to see how the Program has changed the way he interacts with co-workers. We witness every stage of the Program, from exercise, to nutrition, to bathroom habits. We watch Drew build himself up and tear everyone else down, including emotional confrontations with his father, Amber, and Chris.

Invincible Force has a cool sense of mystery lurking about. We're never given details about "The Program" other than the generic regiment explained to us by Drew. Big kudos to Ailes who totally committed himself to Schneidkraut's vision. There is a definite transformation unfolding onscreen. Whether or not he truly became a self-righteous dick will be between him and the cast and crew. The film is also powered by a great soundtrack, a mixture of strange and jarring ambient music, and unearthly death metal by Serberus and Maveth.

With this film, Mr. Schneidkraut may be wondering out loud why men choose to shape themselves into formidable tanks without developing the skilled brains to drive them. Are you willing to enter The Program to prove him wrong?

Bonus Points for the appearance of Driller Killer!



"My Thoughts On...Invincible Force" By NEIL FOX

The films of Dan Schneidkraut are exhilarating, uncomfortable and intoxicating. His latest feature is a claustrophobic piece of high concept lo-fi that I still can’t shake, 3 or so days after watching it.

There is so much going on in this documentary-esque saga as we watch a man, actually physically transform his body and subsequently his life on a 90 day Invincible Force programme. Like the lead character Drew, you have to commit to the programme, Schneidkraut’s brutal programme and see it through.

The film is shot on a variety of dated and obsolete video formats and feels like a commentary on dated and obsolete mainstream views of masculinity and is constructed through a repetition of still frames and the subtlest of movements. It’s in the repetition of the frames that the drama, tension and impact lies. No-one frames like Schneidkraut, his eye is masterful and no millimetre of a frame is wasted, even if it doesn’t feel like that at the start, by the end, the design plays itself out. There are some sly comments on isolation and the inevitable insanity it brings, the naivete of a life learned through DVD and the dangers of extraditing ourselves from society and human contact. All delivered with a hypnotic sense of composition and pace. 

However, it only works because of the performance of Ailes who commits not only to the extreme physical demands of the role but crucially, to the role of a man seeking to improve his situation but ending up condemned and trapped inside his body, cut off from the world. 

A unique cinematic experience that pulls no punches and grips and doesn’t let go. I’ve talked here of the genius of Dan S, and this merely confirms it. Wow.

Neil Fox is a Cultural Saboteur. As well as being an accomplished film critic and filmmaker, he was co-founder/director of the mighty Filmstock Film Festival throughout its far too brief 10 years of cinematic curation. Twitter: @drgonzolives 
(biography stolen from DIRECTOR'S NOTES)

“Standouts [at The Minneapolis Underground Film Festival] include the uncanny and hypnotic Invincible Force, a strange – and international award winning - chronicle of Drew Ailes altering and transforming his own body over the course of a 90 day period."


Doch erst einmal steht Hamburg im Fokus. Mit Filmen, die bislang fast sämtlich keinen deutschen Vertrieb haben, sondern ihrer Entdeckung harren. Zum Beispiel "Invincible Force" (27.10., 19.30 Uhr, Gängeviertel), eine Mixtur aus "Taxi Driver" und "Big Brother", in der ein bierbäuchiger Metalfan konsequent den Trainingsanweisungen einer "In 90 Tagen zum Herkules-Körper"-DVD folgt. Mit wahnwitzigen Konsequenzen."


Invincible Force didn't need a big budget to make a captivating film about a man's battle with himself. In fact, it didn't need a budget at all.

To understand “Invincible Force,” the new independent film from local director Dan S.,  we must first acknowledge what it is not. It is not a big budget movie — no money was spent on the production. And it is absolutely not Mumblecore.

The genre that Dan S. calls “lazy filmmaking” and “hipster soap opera” is a recent film fad that is characterized by improvisation and ultra-low budget. Think “Cyrus” and “Hump Day.”
“We didn’t want to make something like that. We are only interested in ideas and technique,” Dan S. said. “So we thought it’d be really interesting to take some incredibly crummy equipment and stylize a movie that looked really interesting, instead of taking some nice equipment and making it look like shit.”

The movie, which was cowritten by Dan S. and Andrew Martin, is essentially a before-and-after, 90-day workout tape, but the camera rolls through the struggles in between. Actor Drew Ailes gives a truly chilling, understated performance in front of the VHS and 8 mm analog cameras as the man grappling with his own imperfections, physical and mental. Drew the actor had to endure the same grueling transformation from disheveled drunk to shredded titan that Drew the character does in the movie, which was shot over a 90-day period, during which Ailes shed 35 pounds.

With an overt sense of tragedy looming above Drew’s workout plan, the film treats fitness addiction like it would heroin addiction — a grim study of a man versus himself and his obsession.

“It’s the same mechanisms as a person who is destroying their body through an eating disorder,” Ailes said. “It’s the same exact thing except it’s coming from media and websites. You’re building yourself up instead of breaking yourself down. Literally.”

Dan S., a brawny weight lifter himself, said that working out can be equally destructive to your mind and your body.

“A lot of [working out] is about deluding yourself. And it’s about hyperbole. It’s like all this hyperbolic shit like ‘You’re the master of your domain!’” Dan S. said.

While, like Mumblecore, “Invincible Force” is rooted in a DIY philosophy — probably moreso (everything used in the movie was “found, borrowed or stolen”) — the difference is in the approach. Mumblecore is lax, allowing the actors to just “do their thing,” whereas “Invincible Force” is meticulously structured.

“We are interested in subtext, which are literary devices as old as time that people forget,” Dan S. said. “And there is a poetry in subtext and precise language. When you are improvising you lose a lot of that stuff.”

There is also subtext in the decision to spend zero dollars on the production. The film is shot with obsolete cameras, usually on a tripod, and they rarely leave the set of Dan’s apartment so as to not spend money on gas. While pragmatic, the choice was also symbolic of the film’s subject matter.

“The film is about the obsolescence of masculinity,” Dan S. said. “And I think using obsolete formats and what some people might consider obsolete storytelling methods like stationary shots functions is a metaphor of the obsolescence of [Drew] and his body image and his quest to become the ultimate übermensch warrior.”