A Québécois action film? I had to see it! It turns out that there’s been a lot of action films made in Quebec since I last had a look in. As Brendan Kelly points out in The Montreal Gazette, this one’s a sequel to the very successful Nitro (2007) by the same director; a Fast and Furious knockoff about a man returning to his criminal past in order to get the heart transplant his wife so urgently needs. The sequel begins with the hero, Max (Guillaume Lemay-Thivièrge), in jail due to what happened in the original; with his now teenage son Théo (Antoine Desrochers) involved in a criminal gang as a hacker, and Max’s attempt to reconnect with and protect Théo, who blames his father for his mother’s death and wants nothing to do with him.
Nitro Rush is not so much a genre movie as a ‘genres’ movie, bringing together jailbreak film, heist film, chase film, and encasing it all within a father/son melodrama punctuated by lots of cleverly done action. It’s not quite good but I enjoyed seeing it very much. I loved seeing the city I grew up in as a space for action instead of merely the place where people in Québécois movies examine their troubled psyches; I liked seeing well-loved actors such as Micheline Lanctôt (as ‘La femme en noir’, the government operative who makes a deal with Max) and Antoine Olivier-Pilon (so alive and emotionally transparent as the protagonist of Xavier Dolan’s Mommy) get a chance to do their stuff and do it so well. I liked seeing what types of action can be achieved on a low budget (an extensive range, with the heroine, Daphne — Madelaine Péloquin — doing quite a lot of it); and I found it genuinely thrilling. I also liked seeing the dreams and aspirations of a culture revealed to us in these low budget-genre movies by choice of penthouse décor, costuming, ideal body-types, the gadgetry associated with particular types and and social-sexual-familial relations,
I find these genre films often more revealing ideologically than those auteurist ones through which an individual conscientiousness tries to find expression. Genre films from smaller national cinemas don’t just aim please the populace, they’re also a necessary training ground through which the filmmakers can get experience, try out things, take chances; play with action, time and desire. Nitro Rush is the product of a ‘national’ cinema in dialogue with its culture in a way that auteur films are so often not. It really is not very good. But I enjoyed it very much and it was worth my while.