Saturday, October 2, 2010

EIFF Week: The Academy

They are society’s flotsam, murderers, sociopaths, criminals bred for Darwinian survival. A select group of convicted youths are given a second chance by a shadowy organization: The Academy. They will be trained to become efficient weapons of death, honing into a valued asset the very thing that made them outcasts. They are divided into classes, trained as a unit for three years and isolated from everyone and everything else. The final exam? Over 100 square kilometers, classmates must track down and eliminate each other until only one remains. The rules: They cannot engage each other in public places, in front of witnesses, or harm or cause harm to innocent bystanders. Highly trained and with limited time, friend will kill friend, enemy slaughter enemy across a populated urban backdrop. This is The Academy. Let the exam begin.

Remember my review of “The Corrupted” where I said that it lacked the manic intensity that would have made it a great b-movie? “The Academy” has that energy and spades, and it’s a total riot.

Two amnesiac commandos grappling while charging through not one, but two walls? Check. A woman shooting a rapist in the crotch 14 times? Oh yeah. The line: “It’s a pity that I don’t remember why I hate you, but I know that I do”? Hells. Yes. “The Academy” is a Canadian, independent action movie that knows exactly what it is and runs with it full speed, teeth bared, guns blazing, and on fire.

The tone is set early, with each character either waking up with a fragmented memory or getting the snot being beat out of him or her. There’s a romantic sub-plot in there, but who cares? There are things getting stabbed, shot and punched all over the place accompanied by old west stand-off soundtrack. I can say that I have a completely unironic love for the “The Academy.”

If there’s one major complaint I could make about this movie, it’s the extremely overwritten ending, which comes completely out of left field. During the Q&A session after the screening, the the director Kenneth Barr revealed that the ending was rewritten 16 times; they settled on an ending that could segue into a TV series. I think the film suffers for that, but the story overall quickly breaks down after even the slightest scrutiny. Why amnesia? Why fist-fight when you have knives? Why knife-fight when you have assault rifles? The ending just makes no sense. Sorry dudes. No sense.

Convincing visuals, brisk pacing, fun characters and light mood make this Edmonton made movie and enjoyable thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Edit: Oh balls. I just now noticed a fairly terrible typo in this post: "I have completely ironic love." I have completely UNironic love for "The Academy." As in "genuine love." Whoops. In case there's any doubt, I really did like this movie. Damn this sarcastic hipster culture we live in. It's corrected now. - October 29 2010

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