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Mon Ami

2012, Starring Mike Kovac, Scott Wallis, Bradley Duffy, John Fitzgerald, Len Harvey, P. Lynn Johnson. Directed by Rob Grant.

Sometimes, when everything looks its bleakest in the frozen north, you realize that all you have is closest pals. Perhaps that's why the annals of Canadian comedy are teeming with buddy comedies that pair up lovable but patriotic losers, from quintessential hosers Bob and Doug McKenzie to Quebec's Anglophone-loving brothers Elvis and Mo Gratton and headbangers Terry Cahill and Dean Murdoch. And now we have Teddy and Callum, two bumbling friends that take inspiration from the same shlubby spirit of their comedic forbearers in Mon Ami. Like its title suggests, Rob Grant's Vancouver-shot comedy takes a wry look at the sometimes messy world of the close male friendship, only with an often hilariously bloody twist.

Mon Ami centres on Teddy (Mike Kovac) and Cal (Scott Wallis), two lifelong pals now slaving away at a soul-deadening hardware store. Though their approach to customer service isn't exactly impressive, they're shocked when the retiring owner announces he's handing the business over to his insufferable sons. Assuming he was next in line to take over the store's management, Teddy is furious and, with Cal's help, quickly concocts an ill-fated plan to kidnap their boss' flirty teenage daughter Crystal (Chelsey Reist) for revenge and perhaps also a little profit.

Problem is, Teddy and Cal have absolutely no idea how to kidnap anyone. At all. Using a planned fishing trip as cover, the friends consult seasoned arms/drug dealer Vincent Woods (Bradley Duffy, in a notable performance) for help before they don ludicrous masks and grab Crystal while she's out jogging. Returning to Cal's parents' house, the bumbling pair tie up their hostage and try to figure out how to deliver the ransom note. But once their plans start to unravel and tempers flare, the disastrous twists pile up faster than the incidental body count, eventually testing the very fabric of the would-be-kidnappers' friendship.

Though similarly conceived buddy comedies are a well-mined subgenre--especially, as previously noted, in Canada--this engaging black comedy of gore-soaked errors is admirable in its commitment to its premise, and the way it keeps cranking up the stakes well beyond what less ambitious films might attempt. Director Rob Grant carefully plays with audience expectations, initially hinting at some of the bloody twists to come when Teddy tries repeatedly to bring himself to cut off Crystal's toe to send back with a ransom note. Those initial false starts are revealed as teases once the film gives way to full-on gore gags--nail gun mishaps, backfiring shotguns, faucets shooting at people's faces and bloody beatings become the norm. But the film goes even further over the top in its finale, when Crystal's family shows up for their own revenge that reveals them to be just as inept as Teddy and Cal when it comes to crime--one of the film's most unique and satisfying turns.

But underneath all the blood stains, malfunctioning weapons and do-it-yourself dismemberment, Mon Ami is a sincere buddy comedy, and despite the wild machinations of the plot, Kovac and Wallis keep the film grounded with their natural and believable friendship. Despite a sometimes frantic pace, Mon Ami often relaxes for some relatable human moments between Teddy and Cal, especially Cal's jealousy over the time that Teddy spends with his wife (Teagan Vincze)--a problem that manifests in constant interrupting phone calls whenever the pair are about to carry out a particularly unpalatable task related to their crime. The film's wish-fulfillment conclusion, as joyfully ludicrous as the rest of the film, really legitimizes the pair's relationship and helps to put their past deeds in perspective.

Like the best black comedies, Mon Ami inhabits a bizarre world of its own making and even though the characters sometimes don't behave in a believable fashion, it would be missing the point to expect them to. Like a roller coaster that just keeps plummeting downward with no relief in sight, Grant's go-for-broke splatter comedy is an undeniably fun film that follows in the bloody footprints of Canadian cult items like Fido and Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter.

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