STEGMAN IS DEAD (Canada 2017) ***

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Stegman Is Dead Poster
Meet Stegman. He’s dead. In this crime comedy, bizarre assassins must come together to unravel the puzzle of Stegman’s blackmail secret, and why he’s already dead on the set of his own porn film.

Director:

David Hyde

 

Raven Banner Entertainment distributes low budget films – usually horror flicks or flicks with an edge.  STEGMAN IS DEAD falls into the latter category, with violence and  some foul language thrown in for good measure despite the film’s protagonist being a family man.

A family man with a past crime background, to be more accurate.  He has ‘successfully’ completed a heist in which he had accidentally killed two security guards.  His boss, Don (Michael Ironside) has cleaned up everything but unfortunately all the cleanup was recorded on tape which has been stole by Stegman who is now blackmailing him.

The film attracted attention well before its release, with two nominations at the Golden Trailer Awards in LA, an Award Of Excellence at the IndieFest 2017 Film Awards in the US and a surprising “market premiere” at the Cannes Film Festival programmed by Telefilm Canada as one of their six favourite films of 2017.

Director Hyde focuses the film on a single location (Stegman’s home/studio) and created a colourful array of criminals, each with their own distinct “style.” There are twenty-one speaking roles include a bumbler named Lars (Arne MacPherson), a sadistic Russian named Sergei (David Lawrence Brown), a psycho “terminator” named Kruger (Stephen Eric McIntyre) and a mystery-woman named Evy (Bernice Liu).

This follows Diane’s family, a deceptively pleasant, aging lot of retired criminals who want to give her struggling husband Gus, a leg up.  The father and daughter – the leads of the story – are members of a clan that goes back generations. They revere the fact that they are thieves. They live in an offbeat culture that exists outside normal society. ‘My dad taught me how to steal wallets, I’m teaching my daughter how to steal wall

When the film opens, Mike is in front of his house. The voiceover informs that he is about to rob his own house.  But the police have been to the house first.  He is to recover the tapes that will save his hide and his marriage.

STEGMAN IS DEAD is confidently put together by director, writer and cast who clearly exhibits confidence.  The trouble with confidence is that the film comes out as too smug for tis own good.  A bit more humility will result in flaws being identified and perhaps corrected.  

The film’s dialogue ranges from funny to fair.  His wife warns him:”If you don’t bring back the bacon, you do not get the sausage.”  Or an old guys saying: “No ore tension, now with pension.”  But the film occasionally hits the laughter jackpot as in one scene where everyone at gathering is forced to lie on the ground.  The wife of an elderly tells him, “Keep your arms together”, as he has difficulty going down to the floor.

The film’s setting is Middle America with its low income residences, old cars and dirty roads.  It sold remembered though that this is a Canadian movie.

STEGMAN IS DEAD is not a bad film, efficiently put together with a confident cast and crew.  It contains occasional surprises but one has to watch out for them.  There is one good thing to say about this film – it has spirit!  The film has a limited engagement at the Carlton Cinemas, again a small venue for small budget films and gems.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/223366304

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Film Review: CHOKESLAM (Canada 2017)

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chokeslamDirector: Robert Cuffley
Writers: Robert Cuffley, Jason Long
Stars: Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew, Michael Eklund

Review by Gilbert Seah

With the film’s tagline “Love is hard to pin down”, it is not hard to guess that CHOKESLAM is a romantic comedy about wrestling.

CHOKESLAM is a story about bruising ones knuckles on the barriers of love and the perils of dating a wrestler with a bad temper. The wrestler in question is Sheena DeWilde (Amanda Crew, SILICON VALLEY). But the film’s protagonist is a nerdy 28-year old Corey Swanson (Chris Marquette JOAN OF ARCADIA), a mild-mannered deli clerk who slices cold cuts for a living, whose first love is Sheena. Sheena has just flown into town for their high school reunion. Corey learns of the reunion from an unfunny, clumsily staged hold-up by a classmate he recognizes. He attends, convinced that seeing Sheena one more time will finally give him closure on that better-forgotten chapter of his life.

The script does nothing to make Corey, the romantic underdog likeable. The only time the audience gets a surprise is when he sneaks an unexpected kiss to Sheena. Otherwise, he could be a dirty old guy stalking a pretty innocent lady. Corey is annoying to no end.
What makes a good comedy is timing, a good script with potential hilarious set-ups. The script is only mildly funny and all the comedy seems to fall flat mainly to poor timing Cuffley attempts dead-pan but often switches to sit-com style comedy as a last resort. One example can be seen in the hospital segment where Corey looks blankly at the ceiling with his neck brace just before mother comes in and says silly unfunny remarks like how her son never gets sick.

If one expects to see some professional wrestling, be prepared to be disappointed. There is one scene where two wrestlers go at it while Corey and Sheena look on from the side. But the action is intercut with the conversation (and an uninteresting one at that) so no one really bothers with either. Other wrestling scenes are mainly ho-hum. Three-time WWF champion Mick Foley has a supporting role in the film, playing Patrick – so WWF fans might be thrilled.

CHOKESLAM is an indie Canadian film and I would normally give a Canadian film a chance, especially it being an indie as well. But it is hard to root for a Canadian film that pretends to be American (as seen in the American money dished out from the cash register in the robbery scene). And also harder to root if the film is this bad and uninteresting. So, does Corey get the girl in the end? Well, that is what the film is all about!

CHOKESLAM is part of the Canadian Indie Film Series. The film has managed to snag preview screenings across Canada March 15th while opening widely across Canada on April the 7th. As the director is Canadian from Calgary, the film was chosen as the Closing Film of the Calgary International Film Festival.

The only ones ending chokeslammed are the audience. A good comedy should not be that difficult to pin down!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23ScWYpjDe4

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