JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Monkey Warfare (Director/Writer: Reginald Harkema) - January 15, 2007

Monkey Warfare

4 4
75 min.

Reviewed at the 2007 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Bringing up Susan

Closet anarchists and urban guerrillas everywhere will enjoy director/writer (the script is more sculpted possibilities than linear narrative) Reginald Harkema’s How to Fuck The Man primer.

After a truly inciting West Coast incident (Direct Action destruction can have unexpected consequences) the scene shifts to Toronto. Dan (Don McKellar, who flies through the role with ease and totally believable appreciation for organic weed) and his roommate Linda (Tracy Wright—equally convincing in her persona of extreme radical turned garage-sale gem prospector) are commemorating (celebrating, they agree, would be pushing the reality of their relationship) fifteen years. Quietly, they make a toast “to not killing.”

“People need good dope to help go through life” is the mantra of Susan (Nadia Litz shines in her role of the Pot Pedlar of Parkdale). After Dan’s regular source dries up in a bust, it falls to Susan to make the bi-monthly deliveries. Before you say “mint condition vinyl” she’s introduced to counter-culture music by her entranced client. The edgy music-tracks (filled with lines to die for: “What a day for a riot;” “Flower Power Is Dead;” Kill, Kill, Kill for Peace”—currently the number one hit on the Bush Administration’s top ten) and flashy graphic overlays, keep the slight plot moving steadily forward.

A stand-up sub-plot introduces Linda to the latte world of charity (the deliciously named Rivers of Resistance) manager (served up with a near-perfect balance of wit and deadpan utterance by Cindy Wolfe) as she volunteers her time to stuff and lick envelopes (while Dan’s showing his nubile supplier more of his collections, including treatises on urban destruction). Following a hilarious scene where the good-works matriarch and her preppy husband (Jason Knight) erupt over who’s to take care of the baby conceived “to replace latte” (third-world adopters and their nannies everywhere will singe on that line), Linda de-volunteers and peddles home to discover Dan’s afternoon delight in their living space.

Inevitably, the far-beyond-mainstream (although they all appreciate the finer cuts of weed) trio of radicals work through an ounce of workroom lust and a dash of jealousy before Susan becomes the child her senior rebels never had. Biking three-abreast around the streets of Toronto (with TTC streetcars in the background and menacing Air Show warplanes overhead) is a marvellous protest against the system in its own right and beautifully defines a different type of family values.

Bound to be different, the mixed listings on the credit reel are a nice touch. Better still is the additional footage of McKellar delivering a Molotov 101 lesson in perfect French. Too bad Susan didn’t learn that lesson sooner. JWR

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