Hi, eh, it’s Burl, and remember, the girls are playing bingo, the boys are getting’ stinko, and we’ll talk no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review another 1970s Canadian picture for you, as when I brought you notices on such films as Loving and Laughing, Paperback Hero and Black Christmas! This one is called Between Friends, and it was the third feature film made by a fine director named Don Shebib! Ha ha, I have met this director a time or two, and he seemed to me a pretty nice guy!
Don Shebib is of course the fellow who made Goin’ Down the Road and its belated follow-up Down the Road Again! And you may recall the confusion I spoke of when I reviewed his picture Rip-Off, the second one he made! I knew that Shebib had made a heist picture and a pals picture after his Goin’ Down the Road breakthrough, and it baffled me that Rip-Off should be the friends movie and Between Friends the heist film! But that’s the way it is, ha ha!
It’s less confusing now that I’ve seen them both! Between Friends is very much a movie about friends and the things between them; the heist itself is something of an afterthought! I like a heist picture of course, but I didn’t mind this approach! Be warned, however, that many viewers will spend the bulk of the picture wondering when they’re going to get to the fireworks factory!
It all starts off in California! Michael Parks, well known from Django Unchained and Welcome to Spring Break, is Toby, a former surfing champ who’s now working as a getaway driver for gangsters! He does his bit on a job, says one last goodbye to the beach (where he’s recognized from his surfing days by the most hoser-sounding California surfer dude ever, ha ha!), then amscrays up to Toronto to hang out with his old pal Chino, a California-obsessed dunderhead played by Chuck Shamata from Death Weekend! (And, interesting item, ha ha, Parks and Shamata would co-star again many years later in Death Wish V!)
Chino, ha ha, now there’s a goofnugget! He’s a slightly more big city version of Pete or Joey, but meaner too, and not very nice to his ladyfriend Ellie! She’s a pretty lady played by a young Bonnie Bedelia, whom we know from The Big Fix, ‘Salem’s Lot and Die Hard! Toby arrives at their Toronto abode just as Ellie’s dad Will, an avuncular career criminal played by Henry “The Brood” Beckman, is released from a stretch in (one presumes) the Old Don Jail! He and his little pal Coker (a role essayed by Hugh Webster from The Reincarnate) have a plan to rob a nickel mine up in Sudbury!
Of course Toby is reluctantly pulled into this plan, and double of course a case of romance flares up between Toby and Ellie! Ha ha, this causes a bit of a complication in the robbery plan, which has already been made difficult by the sudden death of Coker! There’s an awful lot of resentful jibber-jabber from Chino, and some vacillation on the robbery itself, but eventually the love triangle make their way up to the slag heaps of Sudbury! Ha ha, not a pretty place!
It looks a bit better these days, and probably did then as well, but it’s pretty clear Shebib actively wanted to hit the trifecta of hyper-depression: Sudbury, wintertime, the Seventies! To that end of course he only filmed in the greyest, coldest-looking, most horrifically grim locations he could find, with plenty of the action taking place among the denuded landscapes surrounding the mines! Ha ha, it’s truly a wasteland!
I don’t suppose it’s breaking much of a confidence to reveal that the heist, when it finally occurs, doesn’t go quite go as planned! So it’s not the most original of stories, but there’s plenty to like about the picture anyway! With the possible exception of Chino, all the parts are pretty well acted! Ellie in particular is the sort of disaffected creation performers like Ellen Page and Kristen Stewart would make their stock-in-trade many years later! “I wish I could meet a man who understands me,” Ellie laments! “God knows I’m not complex!”It possesses in absolute spades that ineffable style: the one that makes you feel as though you’re in your parents’ living room watching one of the CBC Late Night Summer Movie series; and indeed this probably aired as one! It feels like a Canadian version of a Cassavetes movie, or like a Stan Rogers ballad brought to life! Ha ha, in other words, you should watch it! I’m going to give Between Friends three toilet seat-framed portraits of a weirdly grinning Chino!