After raising temperatures with TIFF ’16 selection Below Her Mouth, Niagara Falls-born Director April Mullen is pushing boundaries again with her latest, BADSVILLE. The Drama penned by two of its’ stars, Ian MacLaren and Benjamin Barrett, asks what happens when the leader of a violent gang finds love and wants to leave, tearing apart the very foundation which has kept the gang together?
Upon viewing the Film’s First Act, we see business as usual within the gang. Toxic Masculinity is prevalent among the Badsville Kings and we meet leader Wink (MacLaren) and his second-in-command Benny (Barrett). We see the rivalry between them and another local gang, the Badsville Aces led by Cuter (Paul James Jordan) who looks to follow whether voluntarily or involuntarily, in the footsteps of this terrifying father Mr. Gavin (Robert Knepper). The mysterious Suzy (Toronto’s Tamara Duarte) catches the eye of Martin, rejecting that one’s advances and lighting the fire between the Kings and the Aces, yet also igniting a romance between Wink and herself.
It isn’t until we enter the Second Act that things get rather interesting here, exploring the tangled binds that keep the Kings‘ dynamic going. Benny becomes threatened by Suzy and his world unravels as we learn his true motives in a love triangle we didn’t quite see coming. Things become growingly-complicated the farther Wink grows apart from his brothers, expressing a desire to change his life. This unleashes an all-consuming downward spiral for Benny which could destroy everything for the Badsville Kings.
We didn’t have many expectations walking into this Film, but it kept us enthralled the entire time as layers were peeled off these characters. This speaks volumes about Mullen’s ability as a storyteller. We had a tough time buying the soft-side to violent gang leader Wink the story was giving us, but for his first Feature role, MacLaren shows he is more than able to carry the Film despite the limitations that hinder his character. Barrett delivers a credible performance as the complex and tormented Benny, really giving us a look at what’s at stake for him should his gang crumble. Duarte while not seen often and under-developed, is an alluring force. Young talent Gregory Kasyan (Sammy) is the heart and soul of the Film with a strong presence to him,
There really are no winners in Badsville, a stylish-looking cautionary tale that we can only be as good as the surroundings we place ourselves in.
Stay connected with the Film which opens in Toronto via levelFILM on Friday, January 26, 2018 here.