Another Toronto After Dark is finally upon us! Last night at the Scotiabank Theater in Toronto was the time and venue as a large number of genre film fans filed into cinema one for the a night filled with mischief, mayhem and the promise of blood. After an impressive opening film, the dark and moody horror film We Are What We Are from director Jim Mickle, the stage was set for the night and the quality bar was high. But it was time to lighten the mood with the second feature. And lighten the mood was what it did. Before the feature ran, a few words were said and the audience was treated to a short titled L’Etranger which gave a comic twist on the classic western bar showdown with some martial arts flavouring. The crowd had an energy that was ripe for what was to come next. What came next can only be described as love letter to Mad Max written in the campiest ink it may have been shining day glo orange. I am of course talking about Bounty Killer, the new film from director Henry Saine and and starring Matthew Marsden.
Based on a graphic novel from Kickstart Comics, Bounty Killer takes place in the not too distant future where society has collapsed at the hands of big corporations who in their quest for control waged war on one another, wiping out most major cities and infrastructure. In the fallout of civilization, a vast wasteland became the refuge of the common man and a new government, the council of 9, was set up to help the people find guidance and safety in this new world. To raise the peoples’ spirits, the council issued death warrants for all white collar criminals, the big business types that destroyed the nation, and bounty killers rose up to collect. The rock stars and folk heroes of this new era, the Bounty Killers compete to see who can kill the most corporate fat cats and collect cash rewards for every head that’s brought in. They also give the people something to rally behind. Things go south for one such bounty killer, Drifter, when it’s revealed he too is a former corporate tycoon. Now there’s a bounty on his head and the only way to have it removed is to make his way across the Badlands, along with his new gun caddy Jack, and appeal to the council personally. Easier said than done as he’s got a band of gypsy killers trying to take him out as well as a rival Bounty Killer, Mary Death, a woman who’s had an ongoing love/hate relationship with Drifter for awhile now.
As you can tell by that synopsis, this film is designed to be an action-packed romp across the desert where the audience can just sit back and enjoy the ride. And it definitely delivers on this front. Taking from it’s comic book roots, the movie lives and dies by it’s colourful characters. Marsden’s Drifter is a tough talking, motorcycle-riding bad-ass. Newcomer Christian Pitre’s Mary Death is a wild and crazy femme fatale who is always innovative with her kills. Barak Hardley as Jack is the bumbling comic relief pulled from an old western, given a modern geek spin and dropped in to play the quintessential second banana. There’s also a bunch of fun supporting performances peppered throughout as well including Eve as the Gypsy Queen who wants Drifter’s head, Beverly D’Angelo as a sweet talking barmaid and Abraham Benrubi as the ever-lovin’ Jimbo, a good old boy who’s a cross between Dusty Rhodes and Larry the Cable Guy. Gary Busey also makes a cameo in the film as the assassin Van Sterling – essentially he’s just Gary Busey with a gun. The only performance that feels a bit off is from Kristanna Loken who comes in as the defacto super-villainess of the piece. Her performance feels very forced and shoehorned into an already over-active film. This may be due to the fact that she only shot two days on the extremely quick production schedule.
What this film lacks in budget, it make up for in style. The characters, the landscape, the jokes all jump off the screen for a rowdy adventure that keeps a quick pace but still takes the time to laugh at it’s own absurdity. The film is successfully equal parts cool and funny giving the ultimate in grindhouse enjoyment. I feel that Robert Rodriguez should watch this film and take notes if he plans on doing any follow up to Machete Kills as this film is dripping in the right combination of tribute and parody of the action films of the seventies and eighties.
If you’re a fan of fun action, cool and funny characters and post-apocalyptic landscapes with a touch of film soleil, Bounty Killer is right up your alley. It’s the most fun I’ve had at an action film this year. Check The film out when it comes to DVD on October 29th. It makes a great rental choice for some alternative Halloween film watching.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!