Realistic-looking Full Blast misses the mark

BRUCE KIRKLAND

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

Rodrigue Jean's Full Blast is Canada's first New Brunswick Acadian movie, so it made some sort of cinematic history as it circulated on the festival circuit, including last September's Toronto filmfest.

 We just haven't seen a smalltown, French-speaking, New Brunswick community as the central milieu in a feature film before. For that matter, we haven't seen much of N.B. at all at the bijou.

 Full Blast is the genuine article, a film actually made by an Acadian, albeit one who left his home province and country to study dance in London and Tokyo and then launch a career as a theatre director. Full Blast is his first feature. It plays here in French with English subtitles. This is the kind of movie everyone who roots for underdogs and marginalized communities wants to love.

 But Jean's gritty, grungy world -- which full-blasts at us with the noise of rock 'n' roll bars and the turmoil of bad boys, drinking problems, drugs, abusive relationships, sexual predation and fish poachers -- utterly lacks charm.

 The loser characters lack real substance. Their dilemmas are routine and petty, so the movie fails to rivet attention.

 It may actually function as a good slice of life look at the locale -- a small coastal town paralyzed by a strike and then the closing of the local sawmill -- but that does not guarantee that it's good cinema.

 So we are left following the fortunes of two buddies (played by David La Haye and Martin Desgagne) who are unemployed, broke and ready to cause trouble for family, friends and lovers of both sexes, at least in one case. Our anti-heroes are both users. It's ugly.

 The so-called plot, based on the late Martin Pitre's Acadian novel L'Ennemi Que Je Connais, turns loosely on attempts to reconstitute a rock band called Lost Tribe, which really was made up of enemies who all knew one another.

 Occasionally, Jean films the fictional community with such a loving eye that the town becomes a character and reminds us that Full Blast could have been a better film.

 Filmed in Bathurst, N.B., the vistas, streets and houses have a fresh appeal that at least looks real, instead of seeming fake like some Hollywood construct. But that still isn't enough to transform Full Blast and make it functional.

(This film is rated R)


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