Stryker is a surprisingly downbeat follow-up to director Noam Gonick’s tweaked-out Hey, Happy!, but then again you can’t expect spring to last forever in Winnipeg. Expanding his horizons to include perpetually stoned indigenous Canadians and muscular Filipino youths along with his standard sniping transsexuals and brain-fried, goofy white boys, Stryker is a colorful film on a morose subject. The title refers to the film’s main character, a functionally mute, pyromaniac First Nation boy running away from the reservation because, well, there’s just a lot more stuff to burn in the city. And apparently that includes burning bridges, as the fickle boy switches allegiances daily in the midst of a gangland drug war between Omar (Ryan Rajendra Black), a bisexual Filipino hothead, and Mama Ceese (Deena Fontaine, her thick Indian accent vacillating between hypnotically authentic and just plain unbearably authentic), the thuggish lesbian Omar managed to land in jail so he could grab a monopoly on the streets of Winnipeg…such that they are. One of Stryker‘s quirky charms is how Gonick places his icy gang machinations against a paradoxical landscape, just barely urban enough to merit a criminal underworld but still cast out to the outskirts where there’s really nowhere to hide. Gonick’s coup was recruiting hotshot cinematographer Edward Lachman (on downtime between Far from Heaven and A Prairie Home Companion) to tease out the subtleties of a locale that urban expansion seems to have forgotten, allowing Gonick to focus on all-important details that turn brokedown, sluggish transsexuals into brokedown, sluggish, bannock-eating transsexuals. While its social outlook does feel a little bit too ethnography-as-fashion show in the end, the environment’s terrain—perhaps recreated with more than just a touch of erotic fantasy on Gonick’s part—is still seldom-trod enough to merit a glance.
The all-important Lachman cinematography looks pretty great on this anamorphic transfer, with a color range that almost approaches Christopher Doyle territory. Lots of velvety blues, moody reds, and dusty golds. And you get to hear every fucking word of that fucking dialogue come out of your fucking speakers without missing a fucking expletive.
There's actually a fair amount of stuff here, maybe because the one thing Noam Gonick doesn't lack as a filmmaker is confidence. His commentary track, in fact, steps off more than once to dismiss various haters. Can't a gay Canadian director get his rocks off filming a communal car-body shop shower filled with bubble-assed Filipino drug thugs? Additionally, there's a fascinating half-hour documentary apparently produced for a First Nation-oriented public access program documenting the film's reception at Venice, with Gonick grooming his two indigenous stars for the big trip. Additionally, there's promotional material, some behind-the-scenes footage, and a music video.
Stryker's allegiance holds novelty above awareness-raising, but maybe the former is meant to feed the latter.