A Gun To The Head Premieres at TIFF 2009

One of the films I’ll be lining up for this year at Toronto International Film Festival will be the latest from director (and The New Pornographers member) Blaine Thurier called A Gun To The Head.

It stars fellow Canadian Tygh Runyan who you may recall from disappointments like Snakes On A Plane or amazing flicks like The Immaculate Conception Of Little Dizzle (and a Tallahassee Film Festival hit!). Here’s the intriguing synopsis from the TIFF site:

Trevor (Tygh Runyan), the hero of Blaine Thurier’s A Gun to the Head, is facing one dismal evening. His wife, Grace (Marnie Robinson), is hosting a dinner party with her appallingly obnoxious boss Dwayne (Benjamin Ayres) and his daft wife, Audrey (Sarah Lind). An unexpected call from Trevor’s long-lost hustler cousin Darren (Paul Anthony) brightens things up. Given an opportunity to slip out (ostensibly to pick up some wine), Trevor arranges to meet Darren for a beer at a cavernous Vancouver strip joint known as the Penthouse. After a brief hello, inveterate schemer Darren bluntly hits his cousin up for five grand to help build his “empire.” Trevor is supremely disappointed by this request, but his night is about to get much, much worse.With his debut film, Low Self-Esteem Girl, and his follow-up, Male Fantasy, writer-director Thurier demonstrated his unique deadpan gifts and penchant for angst-fuelled moments of hilariously awkward comedy.

A Gun to the Head deftly mixes genres with a touch more gravitas than the neurotics-at-play universe of Thurier’s earlier works. Equal parts domestic sex comedy and male buddy movie, the film is also, and perhaps most importantly, a twisted version of film noir so low-rent and scattered that even Edgar G. Ulmer would have felt comfortable here. Because of Darren’s egregious screw-ups and poorly conceived, off-the-cuff scams, Trevor is dragged into an underworld of weird house parties and even weirder drug dealers. Trevor isn’t entirely unfamiliar with this world (he and his cousin share a checkered past), but it’s much stranger and more volatile than the one he remembers. With their odd quirks and bizarre mood swings between avuncular and homicidal, the drug-dealing “kingpin” Sam (Hrothgar Mathews) and his cronies seem to have crawled out of a David Lynch movie, had he grown up in West Vancouver.

Indeed, A Gun to the Head is very much a Vancouver film, capturing the city’s distinctive variation on the post-seventies retro-hippie enclave, combining a kind of pot-addled grace and hard-drug menace. It’s a wild, unexpected ride, wilder because it’s utterly plausible and scarily recognizable.


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