Screens at CIFF: 10/18 & 10/20 & 10/23
WORLD THEATRICAL PREMIERE (previously available on Amazon Instant)

Did the very title of Fuckload of Scotchtape induce me to watch the film above and beyond any consideration of plot, genre, or style? Dear reader, hear my confession: it did.

That title - styled FLOST for easy of conversation; as F*ckload of Scotchtape in official print sources, to appease the censors; and as A FOckload of Scotch Tape onscreen, the "O" being a huge circle that really isn't a letter at all so F*ckload is probably actually closest - also, I must point out that in all situations, "Scotch Tape" is a trademark of the 3M Company - is certainly a provocation; but a provocation that who among us, I beg, could resist? And who could resist, even more, if I further mention that it bills itself as a neo-noir musical? That is not high concept; it is the highest concept.

The wise among you are already laughing, of course. No truly great movie needs to call that much attention to itself with a slangy, vulgar title like that; truly great movies have clean, efficient titles, like Play Time or Tokyo Story or The Living Dead of Manchester Morgue. To call one's movie a fuckload of anything is to out oneself as the kin to a belligerent drunk, anxious to offend and piss people off, not systematically, but nihilistically. In which respect, Fuckload of Scotchtape is a fantastically accurate title, because non-systematic nihilism is very much writer-director Julian Grant's favorite card to play, and he plays it often.

The movie is about a thuggish young man named Benji (newbie Graham Jenkins - such a newbie, in fact, that he does not appear on the IMDb page of the movie for which he is the main star), who once earned $50,000 for an awfully simple task: use his relative youth and casual mien to trick a 14-year-old boy in to following him to a van, whereupon the boy was raped and almost certainly murdered, though I'm sad to say that I have forgotten that for certain, by Benji's employer, Mr. Kent (Brian Shaw). This act, entered into thoughtlessly, so unnerves Benji once it's been done that he flees to the Midwest, hiding out around Gary, Indiana, where he crosses paths with several characters only marginally less seedy than Kent, all while bemoaning the fact that he now has a $50,000 cache of money at the cost of his soul. In case we forget that, he refers to the money in the voiceover - the omnipresent, inconsistently-recorded voiceover - as his soul, every. Single. Goddamn. Time. It. Comes. Up.

A provocation 'tis, as I said, and that makes me feel bad; because if one of the first things I point out is that the movie is unbelievably homophobic and misogynist, since in so doing I suspect that I'm giving it a victory, on the terms that it wants to claim them. Anyway, the movie isn't necessarily homophobic, though the character certainly is, blithely spending the first half of the movie flashing his twinky good looks to defraud older men that he persistently, casually refers to as "fags"; and the movie never thinks to call him out on this. (It is, meanwhile, necessarily misogynist: the one and only important female character is a top-to-bottom shitheel, a thief and liar and a stripper who uses sex only as a means of controlling the men who have what she wants, which is invariably money).

But as much as he hates every person he comes into contact with, Benji hates himself most of all, and this, not the rampaging campaign of being callous on the grounds that being self-delightedly "un-PC" (a phrase never actually used by the people who are supposed to be offended by it) is a blow for personal expression and not just an easy marketing gimmick, is what makes Fuckload of Scotchtape a rocky experience. I am no wilting lily; I don't mind anti-heroes or worse; I have the highest regard for the classic '40s and '50s films noirs that Grant overtly telegraphs his desire to copy in things like the voiceover and intensive use of rough language, and they are nihilism all the way into their chiaroscuro hearts.

What Fuckload of Scotchtape gets wrong isn't just providing a nasty, mean, hateful protagonist, but providing such a protagonist who, on top of it all, doesn't care about himself: not his happiness, not his security, not even his life. The great noirs are about the fall of men who fell from excessive lust, for sex or money, it doesn't really matter. Benji has no wants: he is defined, in fact, by his absence of drive. Which makes him a boring protagonist, and coupled with the surly nihilism of the things he says and does, and the people he says and does them to, that is fatal.

The only attempt the movie makes to counterbalance any of this is by ramping up the style: and while there isn't much that can be done with the low-grade video the film was shot on the make it look nice, there's always the musical gimmick: frequently, almost as frequently as he voices-over, Benji lip-syncs to one of a handful of repeated folk-style songs about suffering and triumphing. Conceptually, I have no problem with that - a nihilistic hero singing along to music isn't all that far off of the work of Dennis Potter, who made at least a couple of TV masterpieces that way - but the songs in this movie just drone on, combining lines of inconsistent and stiff meter with a singer who sounds like he didn't decide that he was going to do a Leonard Cohen impression until the minute he got into the recording booth. If anything, they reinforce the grinding brutality of the rest of the movie, not alleviate it in any way.

A fuckload of scotchtape, by the way, is the amount it takes to wrap one's broken arm up tightly enough to form an improvised cast. You're welcome.