Set among Montreal’s warring biker gangs, “Hochelaga” is a gritty pic about a young man’s initiation into this violent milieu. The bloody conflict in Quebec between the local Hell’s Angels and bitter rival gang the Rock Machine, which has cost nearly 200 lives over the past decade, is ripe material for drama. But writer-director Michel Jette’s treatment of the material is oddly lackluster, failing to provide an original point of view and ineffective on the action level. Thanks to its straight-from-the-front-page feel, however, “Hochelaga” has captivated auds on its home turf in Quebec since its Sept. 1 release following its preem at the Montreal Fest, taking in just under C$400,000 ($270,000) after 17 days in theaters. Pic will be one of the top grossers in Quebec this year but looks to be more of a small-screen item internationally.MMarc (Dominic Darceuil) is a small-time hood who pulls off corner-store heists with his pals Nose (Jean-Nicolas Verreault) and Bof (Michel Charette). This not-so-dynamic trio runs into trouble with the Dark Souls, a thinly fictionalized version of the Hell’s Angels, when they rip someone off on Darks territory. But after roughing them up in the bathroom of a punk-rock club, Dark Souls member Hulk (Ronald Houle) decides to recruit Marc. One of the central credibility problems here is that Marc is way too clean-cut to be part of this milieu. It turns out that Marc’s mother (Michele Peloquin) was closely tied to the biker scene in her youth. When she learns that her son is drifting into the Darks’ orbit, she warns him off and sends her old friend and former biker Popeye (Paul Dion) to try to convince Marc to stay away from these violent criminals. But Marc is fascinated by the strange rites and rituals of the Dark Souls community, and he agrees to take part in a number of increasingly nasty acts in order to become a full-fledged biker. In a well-worn plot development, his former mates Nose and Bof take it badly when he dumps them to join the Darks, and Nose’s frustration is what spurs the bloody finale. Story unfolds with little dramatic punch, the action sequences are less than exciting, and pic overstays its welcome by at least 20 minutes. It’s hard to believe that a major gang like the Dark Souls would adopt Marc so easily, and it’s equally difficult to understand why Marc would take so lightly the decision to join a murderous biker clan. Other than making a brief comparison to the rituals of native Indians, Jette doesn’t offer much insight into what makes the bikers tick. By attempting to avoid both outright condemnation and glorification of the gang, Jette ends up saying not much of anything at all. Darceuil has little presence as Marc, but supporting thesps fare better, notably Verreault as the tormented would-be biker Nose, Deano Clavet as the Machiavellian Dark Souls boss Tattoo and Patrick Peuvion and Dion as a pair of seen-it-all biker veterans. Soundtrack is, appropriately enough, filled with metallic hard-rock riffing.
A Cinema Libre release (in Canada) of a Baliverna Films production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Sodec, the Harold Greenberg Fund. (International sales: Cinema Libre, Montreal.) Produced by Louise Sabourin, Michel Jette. Directed, written by Michel Jette.
Camera (color), Larry Lynn; editors, Louise Sabourin, Jette; music, Gilles Gregoire; production designers, Sandrine Rousseau, Mylene Bilodeau; costume designer, Nicole Sabourin; sound, Denis Saindon, Bobby O'Malley. Reviewed at the Egyptien Cinema, Montreal, Sept. 1, 2000. (In World Film Festival, Montreal -- competing.) Running time: 131 MIN.
Marc - Dominic Darceuil Finger - David Boutin Hulk - Ronald Houle Nose - Jean-Nicolas Verreault Bof - Michel Charette
With: Deano Clavet, Claudia Hurtubise, Patrick Peuvion, Paul Dion, Michele Peloquin, Andre Lacoste, Michael Di Amico, Catherine Trudeau.