'Fathers and Guns'

Hitching high-concept situations to low-brow execution and popular local stars.

Hitching high-concept situations to low-brow execution and popular local stars, helmer Emile Gaudreault’s broadly played action-comedy “Father and Guns” proved a surprise Canadian hit last summer, grossing more than $10 million to become the most successful French-language Quebecois film ever. Tale of feuding father-and-son Montreal cops forced into partnership to infiltrate a backwoods retreat for dysfunctional dads and offspring, pic offers slapstick silliness and gross-out gags as well as parodies of local issues. Outside Quebec, it’s most viable for its remake potential; Sony already has Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall developing a U.S. version.

While working together to nail the murderous head of the Blood Machine biker gang, macho detective Jacques (Michel Cote, “C.R.A.Z.Y.”) can’t resist putting down nerdy son Marc (standup comic and TV host Louis-Jose Houde) every chance he gets. Already insecure about his manhood after pretty girlfriend Genevieve (Caroline Dhavernas) dumps him because he “lacks meat,” Marc frequently lets his egotistical pere throw him off stride.

When the cops’ initial tactics put one of their own at risk, they switch strategies, aiming to get the bikers’ smooth lawyer Charles Berube (Remy Girard) to turn state’s evidence. With guilty-conscience Charles and suicidal son Tim (Patrick Drolet) headed north to bond over some outdoor adventure therapy, Jacques and Marc prove the best men for the job.

Mocking the Robert Bly “Iron John” school of masculinity, helmer Gaudreault and his co-writer, Ian Lauzon, use touchy-feely therapy tactics to generate some of the pic’s biggest chuckles, as the men engage in mud wrestling and primal screams. The most amusing visuals show the grown sons regressing to infants in their bemused fathers’ arms.

Although the characters never amount to anything more than broadly drawn cartoons, the universality of a fraught father-son relationship (something often explored in more serious Quebec cinema) gives the film a human dimension that will score in fest travels.

Bruce Chun’s crisp lensing makes the beautiful Charlevoix wilderness look inviting in spite of mosquitoes, while FM Le Sieur’s thriller score and Jean-Francois Bergeron’s pacey cutting pave over gaping plot holes. An eye-catching animated opening credits sequence sums up the entire plot in less than a minute.

“Fathers and Guns” would make a better English-language title.

Father and Guns

Canada

Production

An Alliance Vivafilm release of a Cineimaginaire production with the support of Telefilm Canada, Provincial Tax Credit, Sodec, Super Ecran, the Movie Network, Federal Tax Credit, Radio Canada. (International sales: Delphis Films, Montreal.) Produced by Denise Robert, Daniel Louis. Directed by Emile Gaudreault. Screenplay, Gaudreault, Ian Lauzon.

Crew

Camera (color), Bruce Chun; editor, Jean-Francois Bergeron; music, FM Le Sieur; production designer, Emmanuel Frechette; costume designer, Ginette Magny; sound (Dolby Digital), Patrick Rousseau, Bernard Gariepy Strobl, Marie-Claude Gagne. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 16, 2010. (Also in Palm Springs, Santa Barbara film festivals.) Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Michel Cote, Louis-Jose Houde, Remy Girard, Caroline Dhavernas, Robin Aubert, Patrick Drolet, Luc Senay, Pierre Collin, Normand D'Amour, Patrice Coquereau, Joachim Tanguay, Jonathan Gagnon, Clermont Jolicoeur, Sebastien Huberdeau, Jici Lauzon, Michel Laperriere, Sylvie Boucher.

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