By Jim Slotek
A lower-key Road Warrior that convincingly casts rural Saskatchewan as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, SuperGrid is a Canadian sci-fi film that opened Toronto’s recent Blood in the Snow horror/sci-fi festival.
Like most of the films on offer at that event, SuperGrid is an exercise in getting the most out of an extremely limited budget. So, while nobody would confuse the many highway fire-fights and head-shot kills with the carnage in a Hollywood tent-pole action feature, director Lowell Dean (Wolfcop) moves it along with the requisite sense of urgency and noise.
Plus, it features a kill-or-be-killed finale that includes the members of a Native reserve among the gun-toting good guys, teaming up with the film’s protagonists and a family of disease-mutated “Jacks” against a crime syndicate from the city.
That last act is a saving grace for a plot I feel I’ve seen at least a dozen times. After an industrial accident at a super-facility lets loose an airborne “black lung” plague that affects millions (eventually melting their faces for some reason), sibling mercenaries Jesse and Deke (Leo Fafard and Marshall Williams) are coerced into making a run through the lawless territory populated by murderous “Jacks” to pick up a mysterious cargo. Said cargo is not so mysterious if you’ve seen any movie about an apocalyptic pandemic.
Anyway, that simple job (which Deke has already messed up once, at the cost of his sister’s life), is the plot of the movie, there and back, with some “Overwatch” help from Jesse’s ex-wife (Natalie Krill) and her wingman Owl (Daniel Maslany, younger brother of Orphan Black’s Tatiana).
Along the way, they also find shelter in the Black Lake native reserve (which is portrayed as being near the US/Canada border, but in real-life is a Dene community way up north).
There, a Native doctor named Eagle (Tinsel Korey) gives a talk about her success using fungus to filter out the disease, expositional dialogue that kind of telegraphs the movie’s resolution.
There’s also, among the bad guys, what has become a bit of a trope – a black-leather-clad female Asian assassin (Fei Ren). Of course, Saskatchewan is full of female Asian assassins.
Not as gonzo as Dean’s Wolfcop movies, SuperGrid pulls punches narratively, but is better than its script. A decent enough time-waster (with the bad luck to be released against award season movies), it’s almost an audition for the bigger, badder action film Dean is capable of making.
SuperGrid. Directed by Lowell Dean. Starring Leo Fafard, Marshall Williamsl and Natalie Krill. Opening December 14 in Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa.