A Gun to the Head Starring: Tygh Runyan, Paul Anthony, Hrothgar Mathews Directed by: Blaine Thurier Duration: One hour, 28 minutes
Yes, it boasts the usual $10 Canadian budget, but dollar-for-dollar, the grimly funny, adrenaline-fueled Vancouver crime comedy A Gun to the Head pays off in demented spades.
One of my favourite films from the 2009 -- yes, 2009 -- Toronto International Film Festival, the movie makes a long-awaited Hogtown reappearance with a stint at the all-new Gerrard St. indie film house Projection Booth. That hiatus tells you all you need to know about the moribund distribution prospects for Canadian films.
Directed by Blaine Thurier -- best known as the keyboardist for Vancouver indie-rockers The New Pornographers -- the movie is an After Hours type romp about a young newlywed named Trevor (Tygh Runyan) who is at wit's end playing the "responsibility" game. As we meet him, he and his wife Grace (Marnie Robinson) are hosting his obnoxious Boss and Mrs. Boss to dinner when a call comes.
It's from Trevor's estranged cousin Darren (Paul Anthony), who calls out of the blue for "just one drink" at a strip bar. Something snaps, and under the pretext of getting more wine, he meets Darren for what turns out to be an invitation to a night of drug deals, partying with lowlifes, and ultimately the threat of imminent death (the baddies' nonchalance toward murder is revealed early on).
The plot propels itself, with Grace stirring the pot every so often with increasingly alarmed cellphone calls. And the acting is uniformly strong and comedic in that British-gangster style, in which hyperbolic malevolency is funny in and of itself. (At least from where we're sitting; it's not as funny from Trevor's position.)
Best of a parade of imaginatively colourful characters are Hrothgar Mathews as Sam, the big boss, and Sarah Lind as Audrey, breathing weird, new life into that comic trope, the bimbo-gangster-moll.
A Gun to the Head is being promoted to us as one of the first indies to use a digital single-lens camera. But it seems strange to boast about its cutting-edginess, when it works for reasons that are entirely retro. In a world where budget dollars increasingly are supposed to equal quality, here's a movie that can't even afford a Foley mixer (judging from the silent punches), but is cleverly written, wonderfully acted and imbued with a sense of dangerous fun.
To riff on the Mastercard ads, those attributes are priceless.