Jason and Brett Butler didn’t want to make art for art’s sake. They wanted to make a Canadian popcorn movie.
Local filmgoers will get the chance to see the product of their labour, First Round Down, which will screen as part of the Edmonton International Film Festival Oct. 2 (Landmark Cinemas City Centre, 8 p.m.).
“We’re aware that there’s a perception of Canadian cinema that’s out there,” says Jason. “We wanted to make a film that is fun and entertaining and has our hearts in it.”
“We don’t have a problem making something that is commercial, that plays to a wider audience, and that has the pace of a playoff hockey game” says Brett.
The Butlers have been making films for over a decade, and their 2013 feature, Mourning Has Broken, currently has an excellent 8.0 average rating over at IMDB. Based on their track record, Telefilm approached them two years ago, asking them if they wanted equity investment money so they could seed a larger-scale project. The result is a film that takes some well-known themes, but shakes them up in a uniquely Canadian style.
Tim Tucker is a former Hamilton junior hockey star who was destined for NHL stardom until an injury wrecks his career. He disappears off the map, only to return years later to reclaim the love of his life and escape his current vocation, which is working as a mob enforcer. The hitman-returns-home theme and hitman-tries-to-escape-his past ideas aren’t new – but the film’s celebration of working-class Canada is what makes it work, right down to a soundtrack that’s filled with May 24 weekend anthems from bands like Sloan and Triumph.
“You can’t not make a working-class movie in Hamilton. Once you walk into Hamilton, the soot grabs you,” says Brett.
One of the highlights of the film is a scene where a group of nefarious tough guys order a pizza – and then try to stiff the delivery man. A fight ensues. This comes soon after a great bit of dialogue about how you can tell a lot about a person from the kind of pizza he or she orders. Meat-lover pizza types? Can’t be trusted.
Brett jokes that the filmmakers have “20 years of hockey experience, and 10 years pizza delivery” – and that the post-pizza fight scene was special to them.
“The scene where he fights the no-tippers, that was cathartic for me,” says Brett.