HELLO DESTROYER (Kevan Funk). 110 minutes. Opens Friday (March 10). See listing. Rating: NNN
It makes sense that Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer should open in Toronto a week ahead of Jay Baruchel’s Goon sequel, Last Of The Enforcers. Both films engage with the human cost of Canada’s love of hockey – though only this one is set in the real world.
A Goon movie as reimagined by Michael Haneke (or perhaps David Christensen, director of the Calgary-set thriller Six Figures), Hello Destroyer drops us into small-town hockey culture without a net, placing us alongside rookie enforcer Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson) as he’s trained, hazed and ultimately embraced by his junior hockey team, the Prince George Warriors.
But it’s a short ride: pumped up on adrenaline and testosterone, Tyson cripples a rival player on the ice and is subsequently abandoned by his team. Adrift and flailing – though incapable of expressing those feelings – Tyson has limited options and no way to cope with being cast out of the only culture he knows. It doesn’t get better.
Writer/director Funk’s first feature after a series of solid shorts – including 2013’s Destroyer, which contained the seeds of this film – is a strong debut, if a little heavy-handed. Funk establishes his dramatic trajectory pretty quickly and follows it in a straight line, seeing Abrahamson’s wide-eyed Tyson as a symbolic martyr rather than a fully developed character.
This isn’t necessarily a negative; Ken Loach did the same thing with his protagonist in I, Daniel Blake and won a Palme d’Or for it. Abrahamson gives a terrific performance as a kid with no idea how to process what’s happening to him, and by limiting Tyson’s dialogue to the clichés he thinks people are expecting from him, Funk deftly illustrates the way sports culture tricks people into the unquestioning sacrifice of their bodies, morals and lives.
But after making its point, the movie spends another 20 minutes making sure we get it. And as ironic as it may sound, maybe Hello Destroyer doesn’t need to hit so hard.