While Vancouver's Granville Street was buzzing with vendors and people celebrating Canada Day, my brother-in-law and I ducked into the eerie quietness of of the movie theatre. We were there to see the late showing of "The Mountie", a filmed-in-Yukon movie and Canada's answer to the Western genre.
According to the Globe and Mail, the director tried hard to get the video to open on Canada Day. He shouldn't have. Including me and my brother-in-law, there were five of us in the theatre. The movie premiered in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, with openings in other Canadian cities on July 8th.
Here's my review...
It's about freakin' time that Canada had a gritty Western to contribute to the genre. (Gunless - the only other Canadian Western I can think of - is a comedy and a complete success on that front, in my opinion.)
Reviewers and viewers alike will rant and rave about the camera work and the scenery, but I won't. The Yukon landscape can be absolutely mind-blowing. They had a lot to work with and I think they fell short of capturing just how mind-blowingly stunning it is. But I'm biased. I live there.
The entire movie is shot in a style that makes the Yukon seem dark, wet, and cold. It's a style that lends itself well to a dark, gritty movie, but it becomes monotonous after a while. By working with a palette of colours and moods, the landscape could have been used as a much-needed release valve for the tension the movie imparts.
The entire movie is filled with tension right from the start. While it works for some movies, I truly believe The Mountie could have benefitted from some lighter moments. I love a movie that takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride. The Mountie is like a roller-coaster that only goes up; it's fun at first but without that release, the tension-building action loses its effectiveness.
Based on the reviews I've seen so far, most of the criticism is of the plot. In my mind, if you're looking for a "hero goes into town, finds a bunch of bad guys and deals with them appropriately" Western, then The Mountie more than fits the bill. If an original plot (or a fun twist on an old one) is what you need, go rent Gunless.
I'm trying to decide if the movie needs more character development or less. The hero has a past, but we learn very little about what that past is. It seems a little superfluous, really, and might have benefitted from no character development whatsoever - and then it would have been a true "hero goes into town, finds a bunch of bad guys and deals with them appropriately" Western.
I love that the hero isn't an invincible "kicking butt and taking names" kind of guy. He's more of a "taking names and then getting his butt kicked again and again and again before kicking butt" kind of a guy. That worked very well for me.
The hero really is pretty one dimensional, and I blame that on the writing. The movie won't win any awards for scriptwriting, but lead actor Andrew Walker pulls it off. Comparisons will be made to Clint Eastwood and deservedly so. Andrew Walker isn't a Clint Eastwood copycat - He's the new Clint Eastwood. (I should note that my brother-in-law, when he saw who the lead actor was, calmly commented "Oh, I played football with him." Small country.)
I think the casting was superb and my only criticism of the acting was that lead baddie actor George Buza's accent could have used some more work. Oh, and while the Robert Service poetry was a nice touch, it should have been read by someone with a little more gavitas than a little girl.
The score was lovely and the music worth listening to all on its own.
It's hard to make a movie that's set in the wilderness. I am often disappointed when I see movies of people wandering the "remote woods" over heavily traveled trails or old roads. On this front, the camera work and directing in "The Mountie" raised the bar on wilderness filming. It feels like the characters are in the bush and you're right there with them.
All-in-all, it's a low-budget movie that takes itself very seriously. A few minor changes could have made this B+ movie into an A-level Western, but it's too late to make those changes now.
If you're not a fan of Westerns or Yukon scenery, don't bother with "The Mountie" - there's little in it for you. If you are a fan of Westerns and/or Yukon scenery, then it's worth watching and maybe even adding to your collection.
And I have my fingers crossed that the director will take another run at the genre or inspire others to try their hand - because I'd love to see more Canadian Westerns.