2010, Starring Paul Spence, David Lawrence, Andrew Sparacino, Terra Hazelton. Directed by Michael Dowse.
Guest review by Brett Holmes
If you’ve ever lanced a can of Pilsner with your house key amidst stuffy air under a prairie moon, odds are you've seen Michael Dowse's scruffy, headbanging mockumentary FUBAR at least once. Rather than zeroing in on an aging rock band long past its twilight, like Rob Reiner’s unsurpassed king of the mocks This is Spinal Tap, Dowse keyed in on a pair of reckless abandons that probably own all of their albums; a directionless duo from Alberta with a penchant for shotgunning “Vitamin P.” Released eight years after Dowse’s original, FUBAR II nixes the former film’s documentary style, but remains true to its characters’ outrageous commitment to self-destruction.
In the first film, Terry (David Lawrence) and Dean’s (Paul Spence) wasted exploits and willful destruction of property turned tragic when Dean was forced to begrudgingly seek treatment for testicular cancer. FUBAR II begins five years after, where a heartfelt bash to celebrate Dean being cancer-free quickly turns into an eviction party when group patriarch Tron (Andrew Sparacino) arrives from Fort McMurray to give’r with the boys like never before. Armed with a massive 4x4 gas guzzler, a chainsaw and about a million cubes of “Saskatchewan Champagne,” Tron and friends obliterate the house, but not before Tron tells Terry of the sweet life that lies in the booming, oil-rich town he affectionately refers to as the Mac, where Tron makes a good living in the thriving oil industry. The next morning, Terry tells Dean that Tron got them each rigger jobs in the oil patch. Like Pete and Joey some 40 years earlier, another hapless duo of Canucks start Goin’ Down the Road to take on the world. Yep, they’re “fockin’ movin’ on, like the Littlest Hobo!”
There is a scene in the first FUBAR where documentarian Farrel Mitchner (Gordon Skilling) asks Terry what he’d say to Dean on his deathbed. Holding back tears, Terry admits, “I’d just tell him… it’d have been pretty fuckin’ boring without him”. While these films will always be associated with excessive alcohol intake and a sincere, “small town, small dreams” atmosphere, the soul of FUBAR lies in the moments where the fun abruptly stops and real life kicks in. The hardships in FUBAR II make the first look like a walk in the park, even though the high times never get any higher than the opening moments of the film where Dean gets annihilated on drugs, strips down and starts worshipping metal god Ronnie James Dio amidst candles and an S&M atmosphere.
On arriving in Fort McMurray, the polluted, greasy air foreshadows the rest of Terry and Dean’s oil industry adventure as excitement, greed, pride, humility and humanity blend to create a story that is not only as funny as any Canadian film has ever been, but also as real, bleak and disturbing as one ever will be. Terry and Dean actually attempt to mature by holding down real jobs, but the oil rigger’s excessive nightlife is part of the game; it’s a new lifestyle, but with the same old habits. Work hard, play hard… if you can handle your drugs and peelers.
While Terry’s more feeble-minded, must-pick-up-and-carry personality succeeds in the patch, Dean is an ADHD dreamer who doesn’t have the same motivation. Cooking up a plan to collect Workers’ Comp, Dean fakes an injury with Tron’s help so he doesn’t have to go home, where he would have to admit defeat and, perhaps even more succinctly, lose his buddy Terry. Meanwhile, Terry carves a Jerry Springer-like relationship with Trish, a waitress he meets at the strip club (Terra Hazelton). Like many in his line of work, Terry is a poor financial planner and winds up deep in debt when the oilfield bottoms out; an all too real catastrophe for many Western Canadians.
Not unlike Jack Nicholson’s character in Five Easy Pieces, Terry and Dean are selfishly flawed and defiant and, because of this, rifts in their friendship are inevitable. Whereas Nicholson’s character should have known better, Terry and Dean just aren’t the bubbliest Pils in the pack.
Surprisingly, the leader of the pack and biggest talker, Tron is the worst off of the bunch. His sudden, painful interactions with Dean shine a light on the harsh realism of the rough-and-tumble rigger lifestyle, ultimately cueing up an effective Christmas-themed climax. Credit must go to director Dowse and the largely improvising cast. who somehow manage to pull off a heart-warming Canadian version of It’s a Wonderful Life with splashes of Dickens.
Dowse irked some fans by abandoning the pseudo-documentary style of the first film, but the director has legitimate visual flare and talent, making FUBAR II feels like a natural extension of the first film rather than a bigger budget rehash. It’s a testament to those involved that these two hosers with luxurious heavy metal manes, generally scoffed at by society, are so relatable to the audience. Demonstrating their failures and human sides, the characters feel genuine and arouse much emotion. The soundtrack also fares better this time around, cranking Poison, Boston, Black Sabbath, and even Deaner’s new band, Night Seeker.
There’s no denying the uncanny resemblance between FUBAR II and Don Shebib’s blacktop classic Goin’ Down the Road and, at times, “the Deuce” appears to be re-imagining one of Canada’s greatest cinematic treasures. Western Canadian passion and ambience ring immaculate, with scenes taking place in the West Edmonton Mall and in the oilfields with thick Canadian vernacular razzing the speakers. Each scene is littered in Molson Old Style cans; hell, a beer banner slogan from a cube nailed high on a wall proudly boasts and exemplifies the source material and geography of the film, proclaiming “You’re in Pil Country”—the givn'r capital of Canada since 1926, where you'll see a little bit of Deaner and Terry on every street corner.