My introduction to filmmaking duo Brett Butler and Jason Butler was imperfect. Prior to the release of their indie Mourning Has Broken, I interviewed Brett. He was an all-around standup guy who was grateful for when he and his brother won Ingrid Veninger’s “1K Challenge”, granting them access to make their dark comedy starring character actor Robert Nolan.
Unfortunately, Mourning Has Broken was a sub-par bust. Nolan was game to play an unhinged windower, but the film would contradict itself. Nolan would stand up against intolerance while also exhibiting bad behaviour – it just didn’t jive. I felt like the Butlers needed more time – something Veninger’s challenge couldn’t promise.
Three years later, the Butlers return with First Round Down. The narrative is just as rugged as their previous effort, but this latest brew from the boys is brave, funny, and one bad ass flick.
Former hockey player Tim Tucker (Dylan Bruce of TV’s Arrow and Orphan Black) is reeling from a critical injury when he’s spotted delivering pizzas by disappointed locals. Tucker, who once had a viable career laid out for him, tries to muster up his dignity and answers baffled onlookers with unflinching slickness. His persona is rattled, however, when his crime past is trudged up after a botched delivery, sending off a chain of events that force Tucker to start riding life by the seat of his pants.
Other than the basic framework of Tucker’s arc where the past meets his present, there’s not much of a concrete story in First Round Down, which also resembles the look and spirit of a collectible hockey trading card. This looseness works for the Butlers though. It allows the filmmakers to find a fitting pace that captures the unpredictability of action sequences along with easygoing hangouts with old buddies.
First Round Down is lowbrow and clever; cool yet peculiar. Above all, it’s a nugget of Canadiana that reassures the Butlers as filmmakers.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie