‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’ One of Hunter S. Thompson’s best known aphorisms is wont to tumble through the brain of anyone lured into the cinema by the promise of mucho gonzo from Allan Moyle’s new film, Weirdsville.
The weird have indeed turned pro in the case of Moyle; once rightly feted for 1990’s Pump Up The Volume, a film that took direction from the ‘rebellious teens’ dramas of the 50s but managed to splice in Public Enemy and pirate radio, he’s had a rather spotty CV in recent years. Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story, anybody?
But while Weirdsville is a step in the right direction, it’s unlikely to reignite Moyle’s career. A kind of Canadian Trainspotting as if reimagined by John Landis and sponsored by MTV, Weirdsville charts one night in the lives of Dexter (Scott Speedman) and Royce (Wes Bentley), two loser smackheads whose lovable behaviour and peak physical condition owes much to Danny Boyle but little to medical science; Requiem For A Dream this ain’t.
And like all lovable losers in movieland, Dexter and Royce have a problem: they owe money to local dealer Omar (Raoul Bhaneja). Generously, Omar decides to loan them more drugs so that they can sell them and pay him back with the profits, which made me check my internal logicometer until I realised that drug dealers are just like VISA these days, so that probably makes sense.
But Dexter and Royce don’t get a chance to deal a thing: Royce’s girlfriend Matilda (Taryn Manning, channelling Edie Sedgwick) OD’s the lot, leaving the boys with no stash and a dead body to dispose of. Their choice of a gravesite is a little unorthodox (underneath a drive-in theatre where Royce used to work), but surprisingly busy for a cold winter’s night in Ontario: the local satanists are using it for a ritual, and Dexter, Royce, and the now not-dead-at-all Matilda all get caught up in it. And, of course, Dexter picked a pretty bad week to give up getting high…
So far, so black comedy: until the satanists make their entrance, Weirdsville is gritty and funny, and takes its cues from films like Gridlock’d, which featured Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth wandering around Detroit trying to kick the habit. But where Gridlock’d knew how to balance the comedy of the characters with the basic grimmness of their situation and sustain that tone throughout the movie, Weirdsville decides to tear up the rulebook and run helter-skelter into a series of contrived set-pieces that, while funny, make the film seem a bit like a series of skits rather than a piece of cinema.
We get bad-ass mall security guards who are under 4 foot tall, a bungled robbery of a safe from a local millionaire (Matt Frewer, required to do little other than be hit by an icicle and lie in a coma for most of the movie), people getting captured, escaping, and getting captured again, until it’s hard to really care about whether the boys get the money and/or the girl.
Attempts at drama are scuppered by Moyle’s frantic fast-cutting and breackneck pacing and by the end of the film, the audience feels as exhausted as the main characters, which may or may not be the point. Speedman and Bentley do the best they can, but if you want a comedy full of weirdness, go back to the source and rent The Blues Brothers instead.