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1986, Starring Harvey Keitel, Lori Hallier, Lolita Davidovich, Michael Rudder, Cordelia Strube, Durango Coy, Alan Fawcett, James Kidnie. Directed by Paul Lynch.

Before the Capital Cost Allowance film tax shelter was completely revoked in 1987, hardworking Canadian genre filmmaking, directors like Paul Lynch were working overtime to squeeze as many films as they could under the deadline. Along with a pair of Olivia d'Abo-starring films, the sleazy thriller Bullies and the teen melodrama Flying, Lynch also directed Blindside, a convoluted erotic thriller with Harvey Keitel in 1986. This in itself is notable--despite capturing the imagination of many B-movie directors south of the 49th, there really weren't that many sexy supspensers produced in Canada, mostly due to the fact that they were just taking off when the CCA officially ran out. Blindside is more than just a rare Canadian erotic thriller, though, it actually ranks among Lynch's more interesting film outings, even if not his best work.

In Blindside, Keitel stars as Penfield Gruber, a sleazy roadside motel owner with a mysterious past as a behavioural scientist and surveillance expert. In fact, he has video cameras set up everywhere around the motel premises, so he can keep track of the comings and goings of his shady clientele, including Freelong (Michael Rudder), a reckless young thug who is hiding out after hijacking a heroin shipment from the local drug cartel. But what Freelong doesn't know is that the vicious drug gang is on to him, and they approach Gruber to spy on Freelong wile he's staying there. With little choice in the matter, Gruber places a pinhole microphone in the empty room beside Freelong's. While he's setting things up, however, he overhears Gilchrist (Alan Fawcett) and his mistress Julie (Lori Hallier) whispering the details of a murder plot in the other adjacent unit. Gruber, already taken with Julie's beauty the few times he has glimpsed her on his security cams, is intrigued by what he's stumbled on to, especially when he taps a phone call between Gilchrist and Julie's husband and realizes that it's all a double-cross: Gilchrist has actually been hired to kill the girl. But that's just one of the film's many reversals, as Gruber discovers when he gives Julie the incriminating tape. Not only are Freelong and Gilchrist partners in crime, but they're also both connected to Julie and her rich husband. As the pieces begin to fall together, Gruber's past finally comes back to haunt him.

After directing the certifiable Canadian loser classics The Hard Part Begins and Blood and Guts, Paul Lynch retreated into the schlocky world of B-film, touching on almost every genre possible, from slasher films to straight-up action and romantic comedies. Though the quality of his later output may be considered spotty at best, rarely has Lynch had a script as meaty as Blindside, and he really tries to do it justice here. Admittedly, the action does get a little confusing with the film's constant parade of betrayals, reversals and unlikely coincidences as several loose ends threaten to unravel the whole story, but the film is definitely an interesting one, far more intricate than Lynch's usual escapist fare. It's also fascinating how adaptable his directorial style is, as Blindside seethes with a moody, voyeuristic quality that isn't detectable in any of Lynch's glossier thrillers and horror films. It doesn't always work because the overly-complex script tends to dominate the viewer's attenion, but this erotic thriller is certainly a stand-out on Lynch's resume, and a testament to the director's chameleon-like ability to absorb and reflect the conventions of almost any genre he tackles, which has made him one of the true pillars of modern Canadian B-film.

The acting, however, is not so impressive. Despite being on screen for almost every frame, the mostly mute Keitel only manages to mumble a handful of lines over the course of the film. It's true that his deeply troubled character is supposed to be introspective and isolated, but these qualities really don't make Gruber particularly interesting to watch, perhaps the film's greatest failing. As the slimy Freelong, Michael Rudder is almost cringe-worthy, turning his character into a wild, over-the-top gangster-wannabe that doesn't fit with the sombre tone of the film. On the other hand, it is nice to see Goin' Down the Road's Paul Bradley make a brief appearance as an alcoholic transient--a role that may have been, in retrospect, a little too close to reality for comfort--and Canadian sex comedy star Lolita Davidovich also has a brief role as world-weary stripper Lusty Lilac, who constantly tries to convince Gruber to settle down with her.

Unfortunately, Blindside also isn't very patriotic. The script does toss around a few references to the Toronto locationrare in Lynch's later workbut the film ultimately feels placeless, incorporating purposely bland settings like underground parking garages, dusty bookstores and boring parkettes. Like the most blatant American co-production, Blindside really could take place anywhere in North America.

Paul Lynch's Blindside may be one of his more ambitious works, but it's probably the least interesting of the three films he made that year. Overlong at 100 minutes, it sits somewhere between the straight-up exploitation of Bullies and the calculated cheese of Flying, but it's worth seeing as an example of the amazing versatility of the prolific director and of the Canadian B-movie industry as a whole during the turbulent late 1980s.

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