TIFF 2012: ‘Crimes of Mike Reket’ is a neo-noir of our own

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Crimes of Mike Reket
Directed by Bruce Sweeney
2012, Canada, 80 minutes

Intelligent and uncomfortable comedy is so rare at the box office anymore—or so rarely talked about, anyway. Crimes of Mike Reket fits into that mould. Not well, though—this film doesn’t fit into any one mould very well, and I mean that in a good way. Aside from being darkly funny in an absurd manner, Bruce Sweeny’s newest film is also a whodunit undone, a cop film distinctly soft boiled, and an emotional drama that is palatably unfunny. Contradictory? Certainly. The neat thing is, though, it works.

One of the best things about Crimes of Mike Reket is that it is inoffensively but identifiably Canadian. This is what I mean: too many Canadian films (and TV series, and books, and songs . . .) approach ‘being Canadian’ in a Dudley Do-Right, maple syrup-caricature sort of way. It’s either that, or pretend that Vancouver is actually the Bronx—or even worse, the not-anywhere-in-particular cop-out that is so terribly annoying unless there’s a good reason for it. Only recently (in the case of prominent films, such as Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz) have Canadian cities felt comfortable playing themselves in a believable, non-campy sort of way. Crimes of Mike Reket is one such film. The characters fit neatly into a West Coast context, and suburban Vancouver never felt so casually menacing.

Titular Mike Reket (Nicholas Lea), suspected in the case of missing widow Leslie Klemper (Gabrielle Rose), is a criminal reminiscent of William H. Macy in Fargo. Lea’s performance is exceptional, flitting from casual to conniving effortlessly, the very picture of a man surrounded and quietly panicked. Thankfully, his supporting cast is up to the task of matching him. The chronically deflated detectives (Paul Skrudland and Rayan McDonald) pursuing Mike, slightly inept public servants both, are a frequent source of off-kilter humour, awkwardly standing in a flower bed whilst questioning Mike’s wife Jasleen (Agam Darshi) though a window, or stumbling through interrogations that sound more like slightly hostile job interviews. Even very minor characters—Mike’s brother-in-law, his former business partner, and his father—make the most of their scant minutes on screen with startlingly memorable performances.

Finally, Vancouver has a neo-noir to call it’s own. Crimes of Mike Reket is wry, uncomfortable, and off-balance. It will leave you shaking your head, wearing a lopsided grin, and—perhaps—satisfied.

– Dave Robson

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6th to the 16th. Visit the festival’s official website here.

Crimes of Mike Reket plays on the 11th and the 13th. Visit the film’s TIFF page here.

 

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