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First Look Review - JUGGERNAUT

juggernaut film review
A young man with a penchant for violence returns to his hometown to investigate his mother's supposed suicide.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Daniel DiMarco

Starring: Amanda Crew, Jack Kesy, Stephen McHattie, Peter McRobbie, David Cubitt

juggernaut film poster

You can’t go home again, suggested American novelist Thomas Wolfe in his novel of the same name, within which he alluded to a specifically American standard of self-progression and discovery: the ideal of exploration, of reaching the frontier, of leaving the quicksand past behind. It’s a maxim that has been challenged over and over in various ‘return of the hero’ narratives, such as Local Hero, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and Taffin (a favourite), movies where the past is an abandoned puzzle in need of completion, and in order to reach actualisation the returner must eventually address what has been left repressed (a structure that stretches all the way back to blind Homer, you know).

juggernaut film

Set in the poetically vast panoramas of British Colombia, and with an emotive soundtrack of strings and snares to match (the score, by Michelle Osis, is simply brilliant - look out for that name, remember it!) writer/director Daniel DiMarco’s Juggernaut locates itself within the masculine signifiers of neon lit bars, tough guy protagonists and fraternal antagonism as muscle bound lugger, and ace namer, Saxon Gamble (Jack Kesy) puts aside his ne’er-do-welling to return to his provincial home town with a view to investigating the supposed suicide of his mother. It’s a homecoming fraught with drama: described as akin to ‘a sleeping bear, harmless until you poke him with a stick,’ Saxon is a rogue, a petty criminal whose introductory scenes see him brutally kick in some cheeky fella in a bar, meaning that his older bro Dean (David Cubitt - reminded me of Brian Dennehy) has to retrieve him from jail the next morning. Dean is the brother done good - he’s able to spring Saxon because he actually owns the prison! A big old brand-new clink, built with the sort of money that a life insurance policy may provide. Hmmm. Who, exactly, is the black sheep in this motley flock? Saxon is determined to find out…

juggernaut film

DiMarco’s film simmers with handsome menace, its brooding momentum matched by the pewter hued cinematography which suggests hard secrets and barely hidden cruelties. Lead Kesy, buzzcut, built like a brick sugarhouse and with the sort of blue eyes that could only be described as ‘steely’, is a sulking axis which this film’s petty conspiracies and murderous subterfuges whirl around. This is DiMarco’s first feature film, but you could never tell; there is an accomplishment in the performances, and the smouldering pace, which feels masterly. The standard narrative outline holds little surprise; but genre patterns exist because they hold a ring of universal truth, and, furthermore, it’s not about what Saxon discovers, but how he’ll get there, the hard-won details. There is, however, an intriguingly unique suggestion in the psychology of Saxon. When the sexy ex-teacher partner of Dean gets inevitably closer to hunky Saxon (what is it with teachers in cinema being emblematic of repressed extravagance?), he dreams of her, but Amelia’s (Amanda Crew) image blurs with that of his dear old mum - paging Dr. Freud!

juggernaut film

As Saxon’s investigation deepens, and the bodies pile up, Juggernaut flexes the old saw of blood being thicker than water by showing us plenty of the gooey red stuff. Families, eh? What a mess. For better or worse, you’re pretty much stuck with them. And, as if to underline this point, Juggernaut’s characters are often shot sitting in solitude upon a cliff, staring out to the granite sea and dreaming of a plunge that they can never take, because perhaps we never truly leave the past behind - a part of us always stays there, waiting for us to come home again.

Juggernaut opens in Canada March 9th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.





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