Written by Gabriel Carrer
Directed by Gabriel Carrer
Any one person can be afflicted by a fit of rage. No one is entirely exempt from giving in to one’s emotions, shooing reason to the wayside and letting loose with a spew of vitriol, or worse. Some of pop culture’s most iconic characters are known and beloved precisely for their willingness to let fury get the better of them, most notably the Incredible Hulk and Wolverine. There is a dark side to humanity that can live vicariously through these dangerous beings when they enter apoplectic rage. However, the truth about rage is that it is extremely dangerous if left uncontrolled, leaving both recipient and perpetrators as victims. This is the starting point of writer-director Gabriel Carrer’s semi-revenge story The Demolisher, which premiered at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.
Bruce (Ry Barrett) is a bulky electronic services repairman living with his wife Samantha (Tianna Nori). Samantha was once a police officer, but her career and her life took a dramatic turn for the worse one night while attempting to apprehend a gang of psychotics performing a grotesque sacrificial ritual. The result of the scuffle left her paralyzed from the waste down. While her life is certainly upside down and replete with challenges on a daily basis, it is Bruce who evidently bears the brunt of the psychological aftershock, donning Samantha’s old riot control uniform, clandestinely patrolling the city streets on the lookout for gang bangers to beat up mercilessly, even kill. His insatiable rage reaches new levels of destruction when he sets his eyes on a young student, Marie (Jessica Vano) who inadvertently gets her hands on a necklace very precious to the married couple. Marie is now at risk of becoming collateral damages to Bruce’s warped sense of justice and revenge.
Somewhere deep down inside of The Demolisher there is a good movie. On paper, the project has enough material working in its favour to produce a stellar, particularly intense psychological thriller about the effects of one person’s inconsolable anger on a marriage. A popular idiom says that time heals all wounds, yet that does not apply to just anybody. For some, the process of coping with a tragedy is more than their minds and hearts can bear, and the potential risks that trauma incurs on the love between two people is ripe for gripping if very discomforting conflict between the two concerned lovers. Director Carrer, who has made a name for himself in the realm of Canadian genre cinema since his feature length debut If a Tree Falls in 2010, takes a different road to tell his story. The problem is, rather than taking the road less taken, which would at least have supplied a sense of surprise and wonder, the film embarks and the tried, tested and very, very tired route of the slasher film. Worse still, it doesn’t do so especially well.
There are fleeting moments in The Demolisher that hint at what could have been. One such shining light arrives in an eerie scene in which Bruce, called upon to fix someone’s internet connection, misconstrues a comment his impatient client utters, resulting in an assault that leaves the latter dead in his living room. Afterwards, Samantha expresses clear anger (a lot of people get angry in the movie), revulsion even, prompting Bruce to shed a tear and admit that he no longer controls what is eating inside of him. It is a well acted, well written and well directed sequence that strikes at the heart of what the movie could be about. Because of that, the sequence is all the more an anomaly, lost in a barrage of low motion scenes, fade to black cuts from scenes that sometimes last barely 15 seconds, and a second half that resorts to horror movie clichés of the worst kind. The lone bright spot, if one can describe it as such, in the film’s latter half is a brief action interlude during which Bruce goes wild in massacring a quartet of drug dealing mechanics. Even then, the violence is so graphic and merciless, one wonders what that lone scene is doing in the movie at all given that at nearly all moments when Bruce engages with other in fisticuffs the filmmakers opt to cut away from the brutality.
If a movie truly wants to relish in thriller movie tropes, then far be it from other people for berating it. On the flip side, said movie definitely needs to find a way to make said tropes compelling, to feel fresh, and even if they are not peppered with originality, then they should be presented in an interesting manner. In that respect, The Demolisher is an utter failure, depicting Bruce’s hunt for Marie during one eventful night in as comically preposterous a manner imaginable. At points the city is a desolate wasteland, other times people emerge practically out from nowhere, only to be brutally taken down by Bruce.
Arguably the most confusing aspects about the entire ordeal is Samantha’s place in the story. There is one aforementioned scene in which she shuns Bruce for the murder of an innocent man, yet she also asks him if anyone had seen him. This is a curious query insofar as her revolt against Bruce’s pleas for affection emerge only after he fails to reassure her as to whether or not he got away clean. Would she had behaved differently if Bruce knew he had left the scene of the crime undetected? For that matter, the film never awards Samantha with much character development at all. For a film featuring a married couple living with the frustration of the wife’s physical handicap, the female half of the duo is given very little to do. Does she know of Bruce’s regular escapades of vigilantism? If so, does she approve so long as he is not caught? None of this is made clear, and as such Samantha is more of a plot tool than anything else, the element that sets the action in motion.
The Demolisher suggests interesting ideas yet never acts on them. Curiously paced and edited together, the movie remains content to pay lip service to thematic substance while basking in tired genre tropes, demolishing its own potential in the process.