High Life
dir Gary Yates
scr Lee MacDougall
with Timothy Olyphant, Joe Anderson, Rossif Sutherland, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Brittany Scobie, Mark McKinney, Ernesto Griffiths, Kelly Wolfman, Turk Scatliff, Mike Bell, Sarah Constible, Aaron Hughes
release Can/US Summer.09
09/Canada 1h20
High Life
Desperate times: Olyphant and Sutherland

olyphant anderson sutherland
berlin film fest
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
High Life An hilariously entertaining thriller about stoners trying to pull off a complicated heist, this witty film wins us over with its likeable-loser characters and twisty plot. It also has an intriguingly serious edge, even though there's not much to it.

Dick (Olyphant) has an idea for a precision, nonviolent bank heist: it's 1983 and new cash machines are under-guarded. So he assembles his gang: brainy Donnie (Anderson), impulsive Bug (McIntyre) and ladies' man Billy (Sutherland), who no one trusts because he's never done time. The problem is that all of them are junkies, and therefore not of sound mind. It's not that they're stupid; they're just wasted. So nothing goes remotely to plan. Especially when a bank teller (Scobie) stands up to them.

MacDougall's script, based on his play, keeps us thoroughly engaged simply because it's so character-based, never letting the plot get in the way of the daft interaction between these honour-bound criminals. And Yates adds energetic spark to this deranged humour, stirring in a groovy period vibe that plays cleverly on the irony of the setting, from the idea of robbing cash machines to the fact that these guys are believe that "opium is the drug of choice for the intelligent addict".

Each actor finds remarkable depth for what's essentially a silly caper comedy, and as a result we're drawn into their lives and situations more than we expect. We also vividly identify with their mistrust, the risks they take, the petty feuds and childish arguments. And they way they interact makes the chaotic action scenes genuinely involving. As the plot twists and turns and threatens to spiral out of control, we can only just hang on for the ride, hoping they make it out alive.

In the end, the plot kind of fizzles out, with a final sequence that feels a bit unnecessary and tries to add, then undermine, a bit of moralising. And even though the characters become a bit tiresome in their relentless, ridiculous idiocy, we can't help but enjoy spending 80 minutes in their presence. And we kind of hope that, when they get a chance to regroup, they'll be up to no good all over again.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 7.Feb.09 bff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall