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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 12.13.13] Canada thriller drama crime



Vancouver is best known as one of the world's best cities to live, a playground for those who love both mountain and water sports but as with any large city, it also sports a seedy side, an ugly underbelly that is home to higher-than-average prostitution and drug use. The Vancouver's Downtown East Side (DTES) has been the subject of research and redevelopment over the last few years but rarely do we see the side of the neighbourhood which is just that: a neighbourhood with people who love the area and do what they can to create a sense of community there. Down Here looks at the human side of DTES, and tells the story of a group of connected individuals who live there.

Teach Grant's directorial debut, which he co-wrote with the movie's star Dean Wray, stars Wray as Roy Harris, a troubled police officer dealing with his personal demons while trying to solve the case of a serial killer who is abducting, torturing and killing women of the street. His prey are young and inexperienced, the young women who get off a bus looking for opportunity and find themselves selling their bodies in downtown's hooker stroll, hoping for a good trick to pay the rent.


Down Here dabbles with the police thriller but the story is far more personal than cops chasing killers. Harris is plagued by his own problems, issues that have started to seep into and affect his work. As the search for the killer intensifies, so do Harris' problems so that the cop is battling on two fronts and not winning on either. The one thing that seems to be going right for him is his work with an at risk youth and the boy's grandmother.

What begins as a reluctant accommodation of a desperate woman's request soon turns into a lifeline and Harris' relationship with Stella (Tantoo Cardinal) and Nick (West Tomelden) becomes central to his life and the pair of near strangers provide a big push for Harris to finally get his life in order. What's really interesting about Harris and Stella's relationship is that Grant and Wray write it as a deep friendship rather than a romantic interest, a small but much appreciated change from the typical approach to a male/female relationships on the big screen.

Wray, a great working actor who regularly makes appearances on locally shot television, gives a fantastic performance as Harris and he is supported by an outstanding cast including Cummins as his partner and Michael Rogers (of Beyond the Black Rainbow (review) fame) who plays a small but important role.

Down Here stumbles a little in the final act and though there is a conclusive wrap to both the case and Harris' story, the way it unfolds is muddled and confusing; it's an "Aha! See what we did there?" sort of twist and though it works and doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the movie, it doesn't feel completely satisfying either.

Though Down Here will play well to local audiences familiar with the history of the DTES and who can connect aspects of the story to the local headlines of the past few years, Grant's movie is also a really effective thriller to be enjoyed by a larger audience. I hope it gets the opportunity to be seen and appreciated.

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