Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Canada 2016
Directed by
Brett Butler / Jason Butler
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

First Round Down

Canadian writer-director brothers Brett and Jason Butler may not be the Coens but they have turned in a fun little film, one that owes much to 1970s crime flicks like Charley Varrick (1973) and The Outfit (1974) although there are also echos of the 1997 John Cusack hitman rom-com Grosse Pointe Blank.

Dylan Bruce, an actor who looks disconcertingly like Ryan Gosling’s older brother, plays Tim Tucker, a former ace junior ice hockey player whose career ended as the result of an on-field injury. He dropped off the radar but now ten years later he’s back in town, working as a pizza delivery driver (something else at which he’s an ace) and looking after his younger brother, Matty (Percy Hynes White). In the intervening period he worked as a hitman and his former boss (John Kapelos) now turns up and gives him the traditional “last job”. The only problem is that the target is the gambling-addicted father of Kelly the girl (Rachel Wilson) with whom he’s trying to get back together.

Frankly the plot of First Round Down is more than a little shaggy. Matty appears to be housebound although why we never know. Typically Tim would be saving up for an operation for him but this doesn’t appear to be the case. So what’s with the nightly ritual with the money (maybe this business along with quite a bit of other stuff the budget didn’t allow). Someone steals Tim’s car but we never hear any more about it. And there’s some kind of twist whereby Kelly is using him to save her Dad that is at best forced through.

And so on and so forth but really all of this doesn’t matter too much, indeed it fits with the film's rough-hewn aesthetic that the brother announce in the seven minute opening credit sequence that establishes the rust-belt, struggle-town setting, and mixes driving hard rock and souped-up retro wheels with C & W and ice-hockey memorabilia and introduces us to Tim, a hard man with a soft spot.

The film doesn’t quite match the level of intensity of that sequence, slowing down in places but it is evident that the Butlers want you to have a good time and this they largely achieve with amusing characters - notably Tim’s old drinking buddy, Bobby (Rob Ramsay), a classic overweight slacker, and Winston (Kristian Brun), Kelly’s ultra-square fiancé - and some inventive directing, the best example of this being a fight in a motel in which Tim takes down three would-be bad-asses, but which we only see through a half-opened door. The hard rockin’ soundtrack helps things along nicely whilst there is some judicious leavening of the action-comedy template in the robust relationship between Tim and Kelly with Bruce and Wilson working well together.

First Round Down is probably a little too uneven for mainstream tastes but if you appreciate dry humour, vigorous performances and the rigours of genuine indie film-making it should reward.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst