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Stars: Mike Kovac, Scott Wallis, Chelsey Reist, Bradley Duffy, John Fitzgerald, Teagan Vincze, Len Harvey and Justin Sproule.
Writer/director: Rob Grant.

Rating: 4/5

Two tragically co-dependent nobodies entwine themselves in feckless mayhem and murder in Mon Ami, a brutal, brilliant black comedy from Canada’s next-big-thing, writer/director Rob Grant. Imagine Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar transplanted into a Fargo-esque milieu and you’ll get some idea of the dark fun to be had with this awfully malicious yet utterly engaging film.

Grant returns to the A Night of Horror fold with many of the cast members he introduced to Australian audiences in his 2009 debut, the zombie saga Yesterday. As fine as that film was, Mon Ami suggests the Vancouver-based filmmaker has grown immeasurably as a both a scenarist (his script finds a sublime balancing of otherwise disparate elements) and craftsman (his lensing, in collaboration with DOP Michael Baier, is of the highest low-budget quality).

His rough diamonds are lead actors Mike Kovac and Scott Wallis. The bespectacled, smart-mouth Kovac is Teddy, a nearly-thirty nobody clinging to a memory of his responsibility-free youth despite being married to a harpy of a wife, Liz (a frighteningly omnipresent voice via Teddy’s phone until a comically adept appearance late in the film by the wonderful Teagan Vincze); chubby, slobbish Wallis is Callum, Teddy’s best-friend since age 6 and a boy-man who steadfastly refuses to leave behind the glory days of their friendship.

Grant defines his protagonists with deft visual cues. Teddy and Callum try to act like adult males – they play the most obvious pieces of classical music, sip red wine and smoke ridiculously large calabash pipes when driving. These flourishes both add to the adorable eccentricities of the characters and give the film a comically off-kilter sensibility that explains away some impossibly stupid decisions by the pair.  

Together they devise a preposterous plan to kidnap Crystal Halpern (Chelsey Reist), the daughter of their hardware store boss Hank (John Fitzgerald). Caught up in the mix is nutcase small-time crim Vincent (hilarious Bradley Duffy), as well as various neighbours, cops and co-workers, most of whom will regret ever meeting these losers. With Crystal tougher to subdue than first thought (given the abuse she endures, the lovely Reist wins this week’s Cinema Good Sport award), Teddy and Callum make one bad decision after another to try to wrestle control of their plan after each luckless backward-step.

No matter how much fun you’re having watching Mon Ami, Grant will occasionally remind you that you’re watching it at a horror festival. He is as adept at shooting bloody carnage and its aftermath as he is at character comedy, frame-perfect pacing and blackly-funny ambience, so be warned.

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