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Review: Hello Destroyer

March 10, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The most revealing character moment in Hello Destroyer comes when star hockey player Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahmson) lies in a dimly lit hotel room, icing his knuckles after a fight during the game, and tells one of his teammates about how he could never stand silence as a child.

The haunting scene becomes telling throughout this Canadian drama when, after a particularly brutal hockey fight lands another young player in critical condition and leads to his athletic career being threatened, Tyson is left doomed to exist in the silences of being perpetually on the sidelines.

At this point, Hello Destroyer goes from being a sports drama complete with locker room hazing and on-ice excitement and turns into a quiet study of the real life impacts of violence, that stands in stark contrast to the raucous celebration of hockey fighting that is Goon and its sequel set to open next week.

The rest of the film follows Tyson as he struggles to piece his fragmented life back together and find work.  He takes less than desirable jobs salvaging scraps from his family’s old farmhouse that is set to be demolished, and working at a slaughterhouse where he finds somewhat of a friend and confidante in an older Indigenous man named Eric (Joe Buffalo), who also understands social ostracization.  It’s in these often quiet and mundane extended scenes that Hello Destroyer finds its impact, as we watch Tyson reach the creeping realization that he is no longer the athlete being celebrated for his brash fights on the ice, but is suddenly a pariah who is feared by others who would rather just sweep him away.

The film’s point is that we don’t really talk about or confront the realities of violence in sports, and when things get too real we often choose to ignore them instead of fixing the systemic problems.  At times the film is too purposely vague in terms of character details and plot points, allowing its dramatic reveals to come sparingly, and Hello Destroyer does feel somewhat overlong at nearly two hours.  While I do think the film could have used a bit of tightening up, a more action-driven approach to telling this story likely would have taken away some of the film’s gritty impact that comes from the slow moving pace and minimalistic tone.

Built around an excellent and quietly nuanced performance by Jared Abrahamson, who speaks volumes with minimal dialogue, Hello Destroyer is a hard to shake if somewhat uncomfortable to watch drama that explores the repercussions of violence, and how one moment can lead to someone’s life spiralling out of control and into deafening silence.  This is an undeniably affecting work that presents a promising feature debut for writer-director Kevan Funk, reaching an appropriately bleak ending, set to “O Canada” no less, that is quite admirably pulled off.

Hello Destroyer is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

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