Mega Time Squad (Sydney Underground Film Festival)
Anton Tennet, Jonny Brugh, Hetty Gaskall-Haan
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…enjoyably silly and gorily slapstick laughs.
John (Anton Tennet) lives in the sleepy town of Thames, on New Zealand’s North Island. He’s got no family to lean back on nor prospects for his future, so bad decision-making has led him to the dead-end job of being muscle (or rather the subject of abuse and derision) for low-grade criminal-on-the-make, Shelton (Jonny Brugh from What We Do in the Shadows).
John is also poised to be evicted from his current home in his landlady’s garage, so he sees a make-or-break choice in front of him: grow some balls and take life by the horns, or be ordered around by the whinging, derisive Shelton for the rest of his days. Prompted into action by his feelings for Shelton’s younger sister, Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn), John decides to pull his own robbery of a Chinese general store. In the process, he scores a large bag of drug money and goes on the lam to evade the vengeful Shelton, who’s annoyed that his employee has gone freelance and sprouted ambitions of his own. So, John’s alone but he’s aided in no small part by a sweet score from the Chinese shop he just robbed: a bracelet that’s inhabited by an ancient Chinese demon allowing time-travel and the resultant creation of multiple versions of himself.
It’s New Zealand filmmaker Tim Van Dammen’s loving (and ingenious) treatment of the inherent time-travel genre tropes that reveal his inspirational sources. He’s fused the low-level suburban criminal bungling of dim-witted recidivists in films like Two Hands or Gettin’ Square with the time travel loop-back intricacy of Shane Carruth’s Primer or Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes, allowing this low-budget comedy to break free of its budgetary limitations and lay a puzzle-box foundation on which to build its enjoyably silly and (at times) gorily slapstick laughs.
The setting itself (in the town of Thames) invokes the New Zealand sci-fi classic The Quiet Earth, which also famously filmed in the town (though at the time the joke was, if you needed to visualise the sudden evaporation of a town’s populace, downtown Thames on a Sunday morning is probably the closest you could get).
While Van Dammen does everything he can to keep things decidedly low-key despite the genre he’s playing in, editor Luke Haigh (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and cinematographer Tim Flower (who shot Van Dammen’s previous film Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song) squeeze a lot out of the of the parochial small-town setting and its fantasy conceit, ensuring Van Dammen’s snappy, inventive tale is sure to see him graduate to bigger-budgeted sandboxes.