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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.17.10] Canada review news comedy

Year: 2010
Directors: April Mullen
Writers: Tim Doiron
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 7 out of 10

GravyTrain opens like a good noir. A cop saying goodbye to his son before he goes off on the job of tracking bad people or in this case, one bad guy who goes by the name of Jimmy Fish Eye. The opening few moments are captured in breathtaking black and white, camera moving with surety and decisiveness. It’s a sincere and gorgeous opening that for a moment, had me double checking the DVD box. How did this luscious opening play into the film’s wacky trailer?

It’s not the last time that high contrast b&w makes an appearance in April Mullen’s follow-up to Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser but opening with it is a punch in the gut, a reminder that this may be a sophomore effort but one from a director that knows exactly what she’s doing even if the film plays out like an SNL skit on crack.

Tim Doiron wrote and stars as Chuck GravyTrain, a cop in Gypsy Creek, a small town where very little ever goes wrong. For years Chuck has been investigating the unsolved mystery of his father’s death (the cop in the opening scene), killed on the job by Jimmy Fish Eye. Jimmy has been quiet for a few years but the arrival of Uma Booma, a cop from the big city, re-ignites Jimmy’s crime spree and now GravyTrain finds himself with a smokin’ hot new partner as they try to solve the case.

GravyTrain takes potshots at everything from buddy cop movies to romances with a series of strange and hysterical events, each more ludicrous than the last. It’s all played with a straight face, a difficult thing to do considering some of these situations, but it never takes itself too seriously leaving the audience to revel in the zaniness. On the surface, the cast of characters which includes names like Mayor Chester Chubbins, Madame Harriette Handlescock and Mr. Buttersworth comes across as juvenile and a cheap way to get some laughs but it works with the rest of the story which itself could have been written by a cast of teens out for a laughs. What sets this apart is the language, the reinvention and use of words and phrases that puts Doiron en-par with the likes of Joss Whedon. Some may shake their heads but those that appreciate that level of language play will revel in the genius.

Big screen appeal isn’t written over GravyTrain. It’s a comedy a bit too smart, a bit too weird and not pandering enough to captivate the Hollywood comedy crowd but those willing, and looking for, something new and fresh will appreciate what the GravyTrain team has put together. It defies expectation, occasionally dropping into melodrama and even serious drama but it does so with tongue firmly placed in cheek, all the while hinting that Mullen and Doiron could easily slip into serious mode. I want to be there when they do.

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